Mayhan on city of Madison’s camps

The Madison Summer Arts Camp is entering its 12th year this summer. Held at the Madison Square Center for the Arts, the camp offers kids the opportunity to learn about art, dance, music, drama and set design.  This year, new director Megan Mayhan is revamping what summer arts camp is all about. The 2017 camp will bring the Madison community and the arts center together more than ever. Sun Staff Writer Megan Phillips spoke with Mayhan about what she has in store this year.


How long has the summer camp been around?

“We have counselors who are now juniors in college that attended summer arts camp here as elementary students, and it’s probably been around longer than that. That’s a good ball park figure. We have kids that have grown up in summer arts camp that are now the counselors for summer arts camp. My best guess is a minimum of 12 years.”


Is this your first year directing it?

“This is my first year directing it. I have helped for several years. I am on the board of the Center Players Community Theatre. So I’ve helped for years doing audio tech, lighting tech, and a lot of that side of it. This is the first year the entire reins are being turned over, that it’s my entire baby.”


What new elements are you hoping to bring to the summer camp this year?

“We are revamping summer arts camp. We are not changing the things that everyone has grown to love over the years. Summer arts camp is a success. It is a successful formula, but we’ve reached a point where we were just stagnant. We need to grow in many different ways, and our kids are so incredibly talented, and we have resources in the city of Madison that there’s just no reason for us to not grow. I don’t mean have 500 kids in here; it’s not a numbers game. But as far as production quality, this year will be unlike any other year previously.

“My personal thing is go big or go home. This will be spectacular. In the beginning it truly was a backyard summer arts camp. In the format like dance camp, art, set, drama, none of that is changing, we’re ameliorating it.”


Can you give me specifics on what’s going to be new this year?

“I can’t tell you what show we’re doing. We have narrowed it down to two shows. The choice of shows are shows that we have not done before here. They are shows that the regular general public will want to come see, whether you have a child at arts camp or not… We’re trying to bring the community in more.

“I have a couple of outside artists, Madison residents, who have said that they will come in and do demonstrations… So, the kids will be exposed to different art forms they’ve never been exposed to before. They’ll be exposed to even more art forms. Even within just the art, you have kids that take to painting, some take to sculpting, and we’ve been limited in the past as to pretty much only being able to do one type of art within art (class), and here we’re going to expand art… within the general framework of camp that’s always been there to make it something bigger.”


What other camps are you directing or have you directed?

“I directed Bible camp at Northminster (Baptist Church) for multiple years as the chair of the Bible camp committee. I’m no longer the chair. I’m the current PTO (parent-teacher organization) president at Madison Avenue Upper Elementary. So, all of the activities and events that have taken place at the school for the last three years I’ve been in charge of.”


How did you get the position as director?

“I have a marketing and communications background. Communications obviously leads directly into the arts… Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler has seen the large education events that I have produced at the schools over the past few years and was interested in bringing some of that community-minded thinking back to the summer arts camp.” 


Do you plan the program and activities yourself?

“Yes, I will plan everything.”


How many kids do you anticipate signing up this year, and what’s been the average number of campers in the past?

“We had 75 campers last year and we anticipate having around 100 campers this year. This year, we are expanding our numbers to accept more campers than we have in the past. We wish we could take 200 campers but we simply don’t have the space for that many. We want to expose as many children to the arts as we can.”


What age group is the camp geared toward?

“Camp is for kids who have completed first grade through completed ninth grade.”


What’s the age group with the most kids, normally?

“It’s hard to gauge which age group is going to be the largest each year, because it truly fluctuates. But last year, our largest age group was our third and fourth-grade age group, which really is a perfect age at eight, nine, 10 years old to get kids into the arts, get them exposed, see if they like it. It may not be for everyone, but I want everyone to have the opportunity and the chance to see if it is for them.”


Why don’t they have it throughout the summer? Why just two weeks?

“Long-term goal for myself and the city would be to look at ways to take the camp to offer more sessions. We don’t know what that would look like now, but that has been discussed. Currently, we are limited on staff. Most of our instructors are school teachers at the local schools around town. Their teaching days start so early in July; we’re limited right now. But it has been discussed that we would love to expand and offer more sessions of camp.”


Has that always been the reason it’s been offered for only one session?



Is it open to kids outside of Madison?

“Yes, absolutely. One camper is from Rankin County and drives 50-something minutes up here every day. We have campers whose residence is in Louisiana, but they come and schedule those two weeks to stay with their grandparents to come to camp every year. One of the original campers who was an out-of-stater is now one of our counselors, and she still arranges her schedule to come and be here for those two weeks. When people know the dates for summer arts camp, they plan all their summer vacation around those two weeks in order to be here for it.”


Where do people sign up?

“The registration form is on the city of Madison Web site, which is It has full instructions as to what to do. There will also be some registration forms in the office here at the center, but the easiest and best way for most everybody to get the information is to go to the city of Madison Web site.”


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