The highly respected program has become a model for the development and advancement of young artists.
Held on the campus of Delta State University and the Bologna Performing Arts Center, MSAI offers students a unique opportunity to gain broad exposure to all art forms, including dance, music, theater, visual arts and literary arts.
The goal of MSAI is to encourage promising artists to begin or continue their pursuits in the arts.
A handful of instructors this year have come from great distances to lead students in different classes.
Christian Coles Vernon, teaching three theatre classes at MSAI, serves as artistic director for Child’s Play Touring Theatre in Chicago.
“I love this program and I love the kids,” said Vernon, a first-time MSAI teacher. “I really like the diversity of classes offered and the diversity of the faculty on hand.
“It’s impressive how many choices the kids have for classes and it’s definitely a great learning environment.”
Vernon is teaching Fighting for the Stage: An Introduction to Unarmed Stage Combat; Finding the Truth: An Introduction to Acting; and Makin’ it Up! An Introduction to Improvisation.
“I’ve never taught all three of these subjects at the same time — it’s a lot of fun,” he added.
He is also leading a special weekend master class on scene writing for all young artists at camp.
Vernon has performed in multiple children’s’ shows in Chicago, including “The Magic Offrenda” and “The Tale of Pigling Bland” at the Theatre Building Chicago. He also stage manages and writes plays and is currently working on a children's musical based on the “Three Billy Goats Gruff.”
Fellow MSAI instructor Laura Morton, a Houston native, is also inspired to bring new leadership to the campers.
Morton is an associate professor of dance at Belhaven University in Jackson and is teaching three courses at camp: Body Conditioning for the Performing Artist; Stage Movement and Dance for Actors; and Jazz and Lyrical Dance Fusion.
“The kids have a full schedule to explore and invest in various elements of performance arts,” said Morton. “It’s very exciting to work with kids that are so eager to learn.
Morton received her training from prestigious dance educators such as Anne and Nicholas Polajenko, Alexander Minz and at Ballet West with director Bruce Marks and Toni Landers.
Her professional credits include the Milwaukee Ballet, Delia Stewart Dance Company, Houston Metropolitan Dance Company and Ad Deum Dance Company.
“I’ve been very impressed with how much this community supports the arts,” said Morton. “This theater (BPAC) itself is a fabulous facility. It’s been such a pleasure to be part of the institute.”
Cynthia Newland, an associate professor of dance and chair of the Belhaven dance department, is also teaching three courses MSAI: Contemporary Modern Dance; Stage Movement and Dance for Actors; and Improvisation and Creative Dance.
“This has been a wonderful opportunity for students to be exposed to a variety of arts,” said Newland. “Not only do the campers have a chance to learn about the arts, but it’s an opportunity for them to meet new people and friends.”
For over two decades, Newland has traveled nationally and internationally as a teacher, choreographer and performer.
She has created dance education curriculum and researched the holistic approach of engaging the body, mind and spirit in creative expression for both performance and life enrichment.
Newland has also created numerous dances for people with and without disabilities that have been presented through VSA (Very Special Arts) International with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
BPAC Arts Education Coordinator Whitney Cummins said the distinguished teachers have made a significant impact on this year’s classes.
“We’re thrilled about our new teachers this year,” said Cummins. “The Janice Wyatt MSAI strives to provide high-quality arts instructors, both locally and from across the country, to teach our young artists each summer.”
Camp culminates with a visual arts exhibition and literary arts reading on June 28 at 7 p.m. and a final performance on June 29 at 10 a.m. Both events are will be held at the BPAC and are open to the public.
This summer the program has 43 talented young artists from 15 counties including, Bolivar, Coahoma, Desoto, Harrison, Hinds, Lafayette, Leflore, Lee, Oktibbeha, Rankin, Sunflower, Tallahatchie, Washington and Webster. The students range from ages 12-18.