Thompson-Pound Art Program teaches children to accept differences

lgierer@ledger-enquirer.comJune 26, 2013 

Debbie Anderson says the more we know, the less we are afraid.

At the Thompson-Pound Art Program, of which Anderson is the director, children are learning this week about different faiths and races.

At the intercultural, interfaith arts program for children, participants are hearing speakers discuss Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism and Islam. The participants also meditate and do yoga, praise dance and tai-chi.

"Religions have more in common than they do differences," Anderson said. "It makes me sad that religion is a reason for so many conflicts."

There is no preaching or attempt to convert, said Anderson, a professional singer and vocal coach.

"It is all about learning how to appreciate each other," Rachel Shehane said.

Rachel, a 16-year-old sophomore at Northside High School, has been attending the program each summer since she was 6.

"It just wouldn't be summer without attending TAP," Rachel said.

There are 60 children and 54 volunteers. TAP is held for about three hours each morning for a week in the Rankin Arts Center on Broadway.

This is the 18th year for TAP, a program of the Chattahoochee Valley Episcopal Ministry.

TAP seeks to provide positive experiences for children, inspire creativity and spirituality, as well as building confidence and appre

ciation of self expression.

The program originated with memorial gifts at the death of a dedicated CVEM supporter Tom Thompson.

"We wanted to do something to honor him," said Sonya Boyd, a member of St. Thomas Episcopal who has volunteered at TAP since its beginning. "He was a wonderful man and his death was a great loss,"

Boyd thought TAP might be a one-year deal but donations and grants have kept it running.

There is no charge to attend and children are chosen on a first-come, first-served basis. Anderson said about half of the 60 children have previously attended the program.

TAP was originally the Thompson Art Program, but in 2000 the name was expanded to honor well-known local artist Barbara Golden Pound, who died in 2003.

Like Rachel, Carter Eldridge, a 14-year-old sophomore at Columbus High School, and Omar Webb, a 16-year-old junior at Columbus High School, have attended since they were 6.

Children over the age of 11 work as mentors helping the younger children.

Carter said he clears his calendar each year for TAP. The mentors have a week of training before camp begins.

"It is all about learning respect for other people," Omar said of TAP. "It is about unity and it is hoped the message that is delivered will stay with the people attending for a lifetime."

It is not only religious differences discussed, but also ethnic and economic, Carter said.

Rachel said there is an anti-bullying message.

Art is a big part of the camp and each year a unity project is put together by those attending.

One of the unity projects, a sculpture, has a place among other art work on Broadway.

"It's kind of rusty now," Omar said, with a laugh.

Another, Rachel said, hangs in the Columbus Public Library.

Each year, there is a different theme for the camp and the project. This summer's theme is "My Body, My Light, Our Power." For the first time this year the project is a video.

"A different approach but the message is of unity is the same," Omar said.

"It's good to get people working together on something," Rachel said.

Carter explained that there is a portion of the video illustrating the three parts of the theme, for example, students gathered in the shape of a heart circling a globe to illustrate "our power."

The finished project will be shown at a celebration tonight where children will display their artwork.

Rachel said some high school students might participate to get credit for community service, but she is not one of them.

"It's fun and I believe what is taught here is important," she said.

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