North Park’s Media Arts Center hosts summer youth camps
By Cynthia Robertson | SDUN Reporter
Students who file into the doors of the Media Arts Center San Diego are expecting to get a great gym workout: from a digital gym, Executive Director Ethan van Thillo said. The big, bright North Park storefront located at 2921 El Cajon Blvd. is home to the Center’s Summer Youth Media & Tech Camp, weekly sessions featuring media demonstrations, creative collaborations and hands-on projects.
When students come out of the camps, they have “flexed their technological muscles,” van Thillo said. “We try to keep the balance between process and productivity.”
The digital media camp has two tracks. The blue track is an introductory study for first-time students, and includes learning stop-motion graphics, among other skills. The red track is where participants make short, narrative films.
While the Media Arts Center was established in South Park nearly twelve years ago, it is a relative newcomer in the row of shops along El Cajon Boulevard. Van Thillo said he chose the location for the lively intersection at 30th Street and the summer camp was established two years ago upon the move to the Boulevard.
“What you see here is the culmination of my dream, where all ages can create media with the technology to use everywhere: in home, school or work,” van Thillo said. “It’s not just another computer lab.”
Watching how the students’ excitement motivates their parents to learn proves to van Thillo there is a need for the Media Arts Center. “Now the parents are saying they want to learn too,” he said. “They need media tech just to learn how to use their iPhones.”
The ultimate goal of the Media Arts Center is not only to teach how to make films and movies, but to show people how to use technology in their daily lives. For children and teens, that includes going beyond the passive experience of playing a video game to learning all aspects of the art form, including animation.
Technology knowledge will be an aid for the students in their future search for employment, too. “It will give them that extra edge,” van Thillo said.
At a recent workshop, 11-year-old Tiffany worked with her Media Arts instructor, Evan Apodaca, on a circuit board. “I learned how to hack a radio,” Tiffany said, giggling.
“I guess you could say that,” Apodaca then said, smiling at her.
Together, the two took apart a radio that Apodaca purchased for $5 from a thrift store. By placing their hands in certain ways over the circuit board, which is a conductor of electricity, they created different sounds for the student’s first project.
“It’s a way of manipulating old analog devices with digital media and sort of smashing them together to create an image or sound,” Apodaca said.
One of the youngest students, 9-year-old Colin, helped with another student’s project. Shane, 10 years old, created a mini-comic strip called “Stick Zoo.” He incorporated several high-tech sounds, including a roaring lion, in his mini-movie of drawings and stop-motion graphics.
In a back room of the Media Arts Center, 13-year-old Anthony was helping his friends create a zombie movie called “The Outbreak.” Anthony acted as both the film’s director and actor. He showed an artificial wound to Apodaca, who admired his handiwork.
“I used Elmer’s glue and Magic Marker colors of brown, blue, red and green,” Anthony said.
Like all of the instructors at the center, Matt Lorenz has the energy to keep up with the students on the more advanced red track. Part of that has to do with being able to group the students according to their interests and skills. When everyone met at their first session of the weekly camp, they were grouped together according to their interest in creating comedy, drama or science fiction.
The students were placed in groups of three and many were able to use the media program Final Cut Pro. “The program is pretty sophisticated [and] very powerful, that even Hollywood producers use [it],” Lorenz said.
While using that program is a thrill for the students, they understand the importance of working together.
“It’s good to get experience working in a group. It’s hard,” said 13-year-old Nick, a recent student at the center.
At the finish of each week of the Youth Media & Tech camps, instructors host family screenings. Open to anyone interested in seeing the projects, the screenings feature work completed by the students.
“The kids actually teach us something every time,” Lorenz said at a recent screening. “Every one of us has the ability to create something that did not exist before.”
The fourth weeklong camp begins Monday, July 23 with the final camp the week of August 27 – 31. Camp hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., with special extended hours until 5 p.m. Cost is $185 per camper. For more information visit mediaartscenter.org or call 619-230-1938.