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Gibby summer camp continues during COVID

Amanda Parrish
Middletown Transcript

MIDDLETOWN -- The Gilbert W. Perry Jr. Center for the Arts  — known as The Gibby — is nearing the end of its summer arts camp and giving kids a taste of what school might look like in the fall if in-person instruction resumes.

The three-week art camp that started July 13 and will run until July 31, with each week focusing on drawing, painting or mixed media at the center at 51 W. Main St. in Middletown.

Summer art camp director Milton Downing helps a student with his mixed media project July 27 at the Gilbert W. Perry Jr. Center for the Arts, known as the Gibby Center.

Camp director Milton Downing said while they teach about art, they also teach about COVID-19, showing them how art and the pandemic can intertwine.

“We try to bring arts to the community to enhance their lives and show them that art is everywhere,” he said.

Mark Scira, one of the instructors, speaks about the coronavirus and how to be safe as he teaches.

“Don’t be afraid. Be aware, be alert, be responsible,” he said to one of his classes July 27.

Mark Scira helps 7 to 13 years old with their multi-layered collages.

Downing said they normally have more than 50 kids who attend the camp, but they limited the capacity to comply with socially distancing. He said they only took seven children who were 5 to 6 years old and 13 kids who were 7 to 13 years old.

“Keeping them distant is the trick,” Downing said.

Scira said they run the camp like hospital, sanitizing all shared supplies, washing hands often and getting temperature checks.

“As long as we do that, [the kids] are happy,” he said. The kids are the first priority in this place.”

The camp typically has at least three instructors each week, but this year they only have two because attendance is down. Scira said some of the teachers who typically help out didn’t feel safe to teach this summer.

Campers must wear a mask while working at their tables and walking around The Gibby.

All the campers wear masks and use a personal set of art supplies given to them by The Gibby. Each student sits at his or her own table 6 feet apart from one another other, unless they live in the same household or neighborhood, Downing said.

He said none of the kids complain about wearing the masks, but if any of them need a break from wearing it, they have corners about 25 feet away from the other kids where they can take it off for a short break.

Scira said when they discussed if the camp would open for the summer, The Gibby’s board of directors wanted to strictly enforce the Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

“The Gibby felt very strong about keeping the education going,” he said. “[We can do it] as long as we can limit the amount of students, and we can absolutely monitor social distancing, continuously enforce the use of masks and hand washing.”