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Hartselle students take in the arts at camp

By Deangelo McDaniel 340-2469

HARTSELLE — William Littrell thought about going home after his first day at Camp Artselle.

He was the only boy in a group of students who registered to learn music, dance, drama and art.

But it took Littrell less than an hour to realize that being different was OK. In fact, he said, it was fun.

"I get to bring a boy's opinion to things, and it's really neat in music because I have the only deep voice," he said.

"In drawing, I get to bring out my own style and it surprises everybody," Littrell continued. "I've learned a lot and I would recommend that other boys come here."

That's exactly what camp organizers want to hear.

For four days this week, 46 area students marched up the elevated entrance of the old F.E. Burleson School to what is now the Hartselle Fine Arts Center to attend a camp designed to expose them to music, dance, art and drama.

"We have fewer students than last year, but we're pleased with how things are going," event organizer Angel Rollins said.

"The kids are having so much fun," added Jennifer Sittason.

To understand why the camp is fun, all you have to do is stand in the entrance.

Learning dance

In one room, members of the Hartselle High Dance team were teaching students dance. Next door, Ali Hampton and Elizabeth Wesson, with patriotic songs as a theme, were teaching music.

Was the next American Idol at camp?

"All of the kids are good, but they are so young and very talented," Hampton said. "They are doing a good job. It's possible that an idol could be in here."

Across the hall, professional artist and longtime art teacher Gayle Strider was instructing students with water colors.

Next to her was drama, where Jane Walker was preparing students for their encore performance, which will be Thursday at 7 p.m.

And, if all this wasn't enough, consider the experience of Lijah Rollins. The 7-year-old Crestline Elementary student was amazed to be entering the building where his father and grandparents attended school.

"Every time we passed by here, he talked about coming to camp where his daddy went to school," his mother said.

Lijah's father is school board member Bryne Rollins.

Just about every Hartselle family has a connection to the old Burleson School, which hasn't served students since the school system constructed a new elementary school on Bethel Road.

About five years ago, a group of Hartselle volunteers started making plans to turn the facility into a fine arts center. The group has raised more than $300,000 and used the money to repair and replace the roof, and install heating and air-conditioning on the main floor.

But at some point, the committee knew it had to bring children back to the building known primarily for its red bricks and white columns.

While meeting in May 2006, the group hatched plans for a summer camp. But before they left the meeting, the directors made sure they had volunteers to teach dance, drawing, music and drama.

The committee posted fliers in Hartselle's elementary schools. It took two days for 60 students to sign up for the first camp last year.

Between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. this week, 46 first-through-fifth-grade students rotated between music, dance, drawing and drama classes.

Littrell, 11, said more students should come.

"I'm a little shy when I get in dancing," he said, "but it's fun and I'm learning."

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