by Melissa (Panitz) Hayden, Artist-in-Residence
Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to spend the week at Eisner as an Artist-in-Residence, which really means that I got to work at camp sharing my love for the creative process with the campers. This isn’t hard to do at Eisner because the artistic spirit is so alive. The Fine Arts building was not in existence when I was last on staff teaching art 10 years ago. The space itself blew me away, but more so the mere concept of watercolor, drawing, ceramics and creative writing all occurring under the same roof creates an ambiance that would be inspiring to anyone, and fantastic to be a part of. Each day the children poured into the building with all their excitement to see what this lady was going to teach them about Papermaking. We were able to add a new dimension to camps existing efforts to raise awareness about recycling, and add the aesthetic aspect of turning our waste into something beautiful. They made bowls and castings from paper pulp, paper beaded necklaces, and learned the basics of book binding as they gathered their handmade sheets. The discussions that transpired were the best part; hearing what the children would do with their paper, or store in the bowls, or to whom they would give a gift of a necklace. Although we often encourage ourselves to be present in the moment, it is interesting to reflect upon what effect these events might have on our futures. Delving into this process offered me a chance to give back what was given to me many years ago.
It’s been 25 years since I first attended Eisner as a camper. Little did I know, it would change my life. I walked onto campus in the winter, and even covered in snow I knew this was the place for me. Speaking to my parents upon returning home from attending camp, I remember recalling with most enthusiasm my time at arts and crafts. We didn’t know at the time that this exposure to creating art would evolve into my life’s passion. Eisner also brought another kind of passion into my life; my husband and best friend, Ron. Our connection always comes back to our friendship, Judaism, and Eisner. At the point of reconnecting with him, I truly felt like I had come full circle, and it was beshert. I feel the same about my visit last week. It just feels right at camp. It’s a comfort like coming home. I look forward to next year as we create more opportunity to build upon. Who knows what will evolve from each summers’ activities? So, as a parent, it may be hard for some to wonder what’s happening with your child while they are away from you. Please know that, at least I believe, the true effects from this summer will surface throughout your child’s life, and the real meaning will come with what they choose to do with what has transpired. As you watch them grow you will know that Eisner is in them, and will continue to assist in forming who they are to become when they are not even at camp.
As the residual effects of my time spent at Eisner many years ago are still surfacing, so too will be the case with the time spent there last week. I saw old friends and made new friends, which have already had a positive influence on me, even from my short 5 day visit. It was wonderful to see all that has changed about Eisner, but to feel that really not much has changed at all. The same beautifully spiritual magic is happening. I am always amazed at the serene feeling even though there are 500+ people on campus. I also loved witnessing a group of children in deep conversation with a faculty member guiding their thought on whatever insight was the topic of the day. One of the most moving and tangible effects has been on our return home, which triggered the thoughts I’m sharing with you today. The now mutual feeling my husband and I have in common with our son as our love for camp passes onto our next generation. How great it is to listen to him walk around the house singing “Hinei Ma Tov”, or “Shabbat Shalom to Eisner” as he gets dressed. Our time spent has spurred mature insightful conversation, from a 5 year old, about getting along with others and doing good things for our earth. I hope the enduring effects of your experience with Eisner are as fruitful as they have been for me, and my family.