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SMASH campers create ceramics with business pitch in mind
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SMASH campers create ceramics with business pitch in mind

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DECATUR – When Olivia Barry goes to the movies, she always has trouble juggling her popcorn, soda and candy.

Her solution is the “Stuff Bucket,” which is, as the name suggests, a bucket to put your stuff in, divided into handy sections to hold candy, popcorn and a soda without any spilling, and you can carry it comfortably to your theater seat.

“It's an idea I came up with in my head,” explained Olivia, who drew her design in her SMASH Camp notebook and is preparing her business pitch for the week. “You always have trouble, you've got a lot of stuff and you don't have any room to carry it all.”

Counselor Merry Lanker said campers can refine a pitch from week to week or come up with an entirely new one each week, but every Friday they present a pitch for a panel of judges. At first, because this sector of SMASH is devoted to art, she was a little puzzled about how to combine art with business, but it didn't take long to figure it out.

“That was kind of a problem we had initially, was how to introduce the kids to business,” Lanker said. “With the energy (SMASH Camp) group, it's clearer, I think. With art, it's more broad. But we've kind of focused on local issues – litter, the appearance of places around town. We watched a show called 'Rehab Addict,' where a preservationist goes through Detroit and Indianapolis and finds derelict buildings and restores them. How do we relate that to our community?”

Of course, art is the main reason for this sector of SMASH Camp, and on Wednesday, students who worked with artist in residence Xin Zhao to create ceramics were able to take their work to the Dirty Arts building on Millikin University's campus to fire them. Because glazing is more expensive than painting, Lanker said, the students will paint instead once the items are finished in the kiln, which takes a couple of days.

This week, they also went to the IDEA store in Champaign and each camper received $3 to spend. The items they bought will become sculptures. And every week, they have to complete five challenges in their sketchbooks.

“Every Monday, they get up and share them with the others, kind of like a critique, and give each other suggestions,” Lanker said.

Millikin graduate Audrey Scherer, who is planning a career as a graphic designer, works with the students to help them create logos for their business pitches and use computer programs to enhance those designs.

“I help guide them with their ideas, so they can develop them a little bit more,” Scherer said. “Art is not just painting and drawing.”

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“The goal of this grant is to create an avenue to recruit students into the field of education, thus addressing the teacher shortage not only in Illinois, but also in Decatur Public Schools,” said Juanita Morris, director of Institutional Effectiveness and Planning at Richland.

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