Illahee remains a haven in an unpredictable world- a phenomenon that we don’t take for granted, and one that this community strives to preserve. This can be challenging in a place that has shaped so many lives, and created lasting memories. Finding the balance between change and tradition is necessary. As we near our 100th birthday in 2021, we have had some opportunities to look back on the history of Illahee- noting both consistencies and changes- getting a tiny glimpse into a wide range of years through journals, pictures, letters, and catalogs left by campers and staff members.
In the early years of Illahee, many families were drawn to camp because of the programs it offered. The 20s marked a historical shift for women, and helped pave the way for girls’ voices to be heard. At camp, girls were given the opportunity to develop skills in the arts or horseback riding, as well as dance and swimming. Camp provided young women the freedom to explore – a progressive idea at that time.
Illahee continues to offer freedom for exploration in the activities that are offered. We are beginning our series, “Activity Spotlights”, highlighting some activities that seem to embody the Illahee spirit. First up? Arts and Crafts!
Rarely does a girl come through the Illahee gates without having the Busy Bee (one of camp’s original structures) as a stop on her schedule. Arts and Crafts has been around since the early years and has always been one of the most popular activities at camp. Much of this is the result of the staff who have taken on this program, creating fun projects that allow for creativity and skill building.
Gretchen Greene, our associate director, acts as a mentor to the arts programs at camp. She trains the staff and oversees the projects and helps to create a successful curriculum. Coming to camp as an art major, her first job out of college was an Art Teacher for elementary aged kids.
Much of this passion began with Gretchen’s own camp experience,
“Summers spent at camp pouring candles, painting clipboards and carefully stamping my initials into leather key chains initiated my love of art. Well, that and an extremely artsy mom! I enjoyed art in high school, majored in art in college, and then taught art in the public-school system. Who knew during those glorious summer days as a child that I would one day return full circle to work with the traditional arts offered in a camp setting? Lucky me!
I love the opportunities camp art programs offer to campers. The girls have a chance to dapple in the creative process without an attached grade, to use both hands and activate both sides of the brain, to work on a project for an extended time, taming the urge for immediate gratification and a chance to try a new medium, all while learning from and brainstorming with friends and super star staff who are eager to share their knowledge!
The art projects vary from year to year, but there is always a project or skill that connects this generation of campers to young women who enjoyed the Heavenly World before them. Whether throwing a pot on a wheel, passing weft through the warp on a floor room in fiber arts, making a basket in the busy bee or working on tying the delicate knots for a friendship bracelet, the arts connect close to a 100 years of Illahee campers and I think that, too, is a cool opportunity!”
We look forward to opening the doors to the Busy Bee, and other activities, in one short month. Stay tuned for more activity highlights as we countdown the last weeks to summer!
Thanks for reading!