Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Get cultural enrichment at these PFW camps

Michele DeVinney

Whatzup Features Writer

Published April 11, 2019

Heads Up! This article is 3 years old.

Having a large university in any city is a plus, but that advantage goes well beyond providing educational opportunities for future high school graduates.

There is tremendous cultural enrichment provided by those universities, whether it’s through visiting lectures or educational programs for those who are not attending the university in a conventional sense.

The Purdue Fort Wayne College of Visual and Performing Arts is one part of the overall university outreach to those interested in pursuing a variety of arts programming, and this summer’s busy summer camps and Community Arts Academy courses provides a wide variety of programming for young students of all backgrounds.

Adding new camps

Melinda Haines, who serves as Director of the Community Arts Academy and Assistant to the Dean for Community Engagement for Purdue Fort Wayne’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, began her tenure with the university in 2012, at which point the Summer String Camp was well established. Now in its 24th year, this year’s String Camp will take place June 17-21, but it is now in good company with many other one-week camps offered by PFW.

“The first new camp after I arrived was the Gene Marcus Piano Camp which has been directed by Hamilton Tescarollo,” Haines said. “Then every year after that, we added something else. The Wind Camp has been around for three years, and the Choir Camp has been around for three years, too. The Lighting Technology Intensive is in its second year, and this year we have two new ones, Summer Arts Camp and Virtual Reality Camp, that are just beginning.”

Launching new camps often comes down to a dedicated faculty member who wants to broaden the offerings of PFW’s summer camp schedule. Once they express an interest, Haines works to make it happen, providing them now with a hefty selection for young arts students to pursue.

String Camp, Piano Camp (June 9-14), Wind Camp (June 17-21), and Choir Camp (June 10-14) are now well established.

Lighting Technology

The still-young Lighting Technology Intensive (June 10-14) is led by Mark Ridgeway, Purdue University Fort Wayne Associate Professor of Scenic/Lighting Design.

The camp description explains that the “week-long training intensive will cover how moving lights and LEDs work and how they can be programmed. Also covered will be using intelligent lights in the design process. Open to high school students, high school teachers, church lighting technicians, and other individuals who use this type of technology and want to learn more about how to use it effectively.”

As with many of these educational opportunity, there’s a win-win for the university which can provide a strong asset to the community while bringing young students onto the campus.

“There’s always a recruitment aspect to these things,” Haines said. “It’s a good chance for students to feel more comfortable in a university setting and to work with our faculty. Since I’ve been here, I’ve seen students who came to Piano Camp when they were 12 or 13 and now they’re freshmen in one of our music programs here. It’s just such a positive experience for them and helps them transition into college life.”

In addition to the one-week camp experiences, by mid-April the Community Arts Academy schedule for this summer will be posted (, which will include longer term arts offerings at PFW such as Dramagination (Grades K-3), Youth Drama (Grades 4-8), a variety of dance classes, new art classes (including drawing, sculpture and other fine arts), and private music instruction.

Outside of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, camps in STEM, writing, reading, and athletics are also available. (A full list and schedule are available at

Hundreds Served Every Year

Haines said their programming typically serves 600-650 annually with about 150 participating in the summer camps. Camps are typically one week long and held only in the summer. The Community Arts Academy has three terms — fall, spring, and summer — and addresses the broad range of the arts.

While Haines focuses on the camps offered by the College of Visual and Performing Arts, she said the success of all the university camps allows “all ships to rise.”

As Haines works throughout the year to continue to develop their programs, she said she’s found it most satisfying to grow the list of camps from one to now seven. She hopes to see it grow even more in the future.

“I get a lot of satisfaction out of making something work that’s valuable to the community,” she said. “I can administrate the heck out of it, market it, and get people interested. But if it doesn’t have a great director, it’s not going to work. Our faculty members who direct the camps have a great enthusiasm for what they do, and they want to share that with the kids in these camps. It’s great when I can work with that person to make it happen.”

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