Young artists hone their skills at Amite Arts Council’s Visual Art Camp | Livingston/Tangipahoa

Laci Beete, 10, an aspiring artist who said she had been painting since the age of five, was able to further her knowledge of painting at the Amite Arts Council visual art camp which ended on June 18 with an exhibition of the creative efforts of the class. for their relatives and friends.

Laci was one of 20 young people enrolled in the week-long class which included drawing and painting lessons for students in grades four through eight. The class was taught by Marita Gentry, a versatile artist and educator best known for the colorful murals on the exterior walls of the Livingston Parish Arts Council Gallery in Denham Springs’ downtown historic district.

Gentry is a painter and illustrator who has added her imaginative designs to a number of children’s books. She said the books she’s illustrated, published by Pelican Press, have a local flair that pairs well with her love for southeast Louisiana. She and her family now call Amite home and she said she enjoys living in the small town which is also close to many southeast Louisiana attractions.

Gentry said the visual arts were part of her life because her mother was an artist. “I was a ‘gallery girl’ and grew up with paint and art supplies around the house, so I was familiar with creating art. When I was around 20, I decided to get serious about painting, and art has been a part of my life ever since,” she said.

Teaching art is as rewarding as creating art, Gentry said, adding that teaching children the magic of creativity is as rewarding as finishing a beautiful painting. “I give lessons from time to time, but I particularly appreciate the art camps where the teacher has time to work with the young budding artists. For each camp, I choose a theme, and for this one, I specialize in the importance of handling the brush. I teach kids how brush strokes count. I want them to learn that their brushstrokes can be part of their final image,” she said.

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Young people are interested in art and creativity, Gentry says, and said she rarely has to ask a student to put away her phone. “My goal is to engage students, and if a teacher works hard for engagement, students will respond. I show them how, and they eagerly pick up their brushes and start painting,” she said. “I try to lead by example. … If I am engaged and enthusiastic about my teaching, it shows in the engagement and enthusiasm of the children,” she said.

Gentry adds: “The benefit of teaching children to paint is that there is active involvement. I think children naturally like to paint things, but most don’t have paint in their homes. I give them a palate full of color and they can’t wait to dip their brushes in and start painting. I guess I was lucky growing up with paintings nearby. Most kids don’t have that,” she said.

Gentry praised the Amite Arts Council and the town of Amite. The camp was held at the Amite Community Center, a spacious facility that provided more than enough space for the camp. She said the Arts Council has been generous in providing the camp with all the necessary paints, brushes and other supplies that contribute to the success of the camp.

Lana and Lila McMillan, sisters and classmates of Laci Beete, said they enjoyed the course and were proud of the paintings they completed. “It’s fun to be at art camp. We met other kids, made friends and had fun painting together,” Laci said.

The next program on Amite’s Arts Council agenda is Dance Camp, scheduled for June 27-July 1. Each camp was open to 20 students, and the arts camp quickly enrolled all 20. The camps are annual affairs of the Arts Council.