It’s a busy Thursday afternoon when Kathleen Fox, founder and Creative Arts of Mount Pleasant (CAMP, for short), answers the phone. She greets me with all the warmth of a July sunbeam and I feel the muscles in my face changing; suddenly, I’m smiling. Then I’m laughing because Fox tells me she is switching from her upbeat professional voice to her “less formal” voice on the phone. But I can’t tell much difference.
And now, after only a minute on the phone with Fox, Thursday afternoon seems full of possibilities.
Those kinds of characteristics — being personable and having contagious energy — make Fox a woman on a mission, a mission to make creativity a primary force in our lives.
“Many people say 'I’m not creative,' but creativity takes all sorts of forms,” Fox says. "From how you run your business to how you talk to your children, to how you buy groceries. And I wanted to teach people how to be creative and how to enhance their lives through creativity.”
That desire, coupled with the need to become part of the solution and not the problem, led Fox to her current accomplishment: a brick and mortar camp where creativity can be discovered through different artistic means.
“I didn’t have a formal business plan (for CAMP), just a mission statement,” Fox says. “But it was total synchronicity. People found their way (here). And my greatest asset is that people see the value in what we’re doing and they share it with other people."
Fox describes herself as “a natural-born teacher,” an aspect of her personality that will “surface no matter what I do." Initially a school librarian, Fox discovered in her job that children aren’t always excited about libraries and their offerings.
“It was the hardest job I’ve ever had,” Fox says. "Because the kids did not want to be in the library, they wanted to be in PE or music.”
So she created inventive methods and games to make the library time more appealing. That led to the creation of her own small company, Library Games, which was later licensed to the largest library distribution company, all in the service of making learning fun and enjoyable.
"I think that learning should always be fun,” she says. “It can be hard but it should always be rewarding.”
Now the rewards come not just to Fox, but to the adults, children and teens who show up for the innovative art classes at CAMP. Classes are not solely focused on drawing and painting but also include less accessible mediums such as printmaking, pottery and photography. There are family-specific classes and activities such as "Junk Pile Party” and “Daughters and Dads.”
CAMP also has writing classes for adults and teens along with workshops that focus on kick-starting your personal creativity, since being creative doesn’t always come naturally.
“The creativity workshop for adults is incredible,” Fox says. “That is where (adults) realize that small changes in their lives can make them a far greater person. And once they break free from any kind of judgment, once you teach adults how to play again, their world is changed.”
CAMP is where Fox’s happiness and devotion to creativity is passed along to the community. It’s a process that can deliver noticeable results.
"When people leave here, sometimes they look different,” Fox says. "They have more color in their faces and sometimes they look like they get it. They think a little differently.”
And so, the creative spark of CAMP gets passed along to one more person. And, I imagine, Fox’s smile grows a bit more every time it does.
Reach Scott Elingburg at firstname.lastname@example.org.