Creative workshops help DODDS-Europe students mold their inner artist

Creative Connections 2012

By MARK PATTON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 8, 2012

OBERWESEL, Germany — Some students wrapped their brains around the perspective challenges of three-dimensional painting, others pursued more traditional arts, such as drawing, calligraphy, dance and theater.

For all 157 DODDS-Europe high school students chosen to take part in this year’s Creative Connections program, it was an intensive week of honing creative skills at a rural retreat.

Participants, representing 24 Department of Defense Dependents Schools in Europe, were selected from a pool of more than 500 applicants.

“To be able to meet so many creative people is awesome. You have so much in common … everyone is weird with you,” said Rota’s Alexis Quinones while working in the “Spherical Thinking” workshop.

Guest instructor Dick Termes, an internationally acclaimed artist known for his one-of-a-kind, three-dimensional, spherical paintings, has taught kids techniques at previous Creative Connections workshops and said the students never fail to inspire him.

“They always amaze you with what they come up with,” he said.

After taking a drawing course last year, Patch’s Zoya Penwell decided to challenge herself with the “Spherical Thinking” group.

“It’s really stressful, but it’s fun,” Penwell said. She had just returned from a trip downtown to take photos. Students would use them to later draw and paint on their spheres, creating a “total environment.”

Other workshops offered included a percussion-based “STOMP” routine, creative dance choreography, exploring faces and places through drawing, calligraphy, water color and video production.

“I feel like the luckiest kid in the world just being here,” said Lakenheath’s Andrew Carter as he worked on his drawing.

Carter, who studied oil pastel and watercolor at two previous Creative Connections retreats, said he feels looser and less judged in the program than at school.

“The arts need to be more recognized,” Carter said. “You see all the football guys, they get more finance than the arts.”

Hope Matthews, DODDS-Europe fine arts coordinator and project officer at Creative Connections, said she worries that new academic requirements will make it harder for DODDS students to take extra arts courses as electives.

“Kids have to fight to make it happen in their schedule,” Matthews said. “The arts is what makes them human.”

Although students were sporting perpetual smiles during a visit on Tuesday, there was hard work to be done. Many were busy rehearsing musical numbers, memorizing scripts and working on homework during their free time.

Assistant show choir instructor Annamarie McCormick-Howell told her students Tuesday that they had crammed less than two days of practice into what would normally take weeks for a musical crew to get through.

The students were rehearsing “Luck be a Lady Tonight,” one of the many songs they plan to perform at the end of the week in a medley of Broadway tunes.

In another workshop, students were rehearsing for their end-of-week performance, which included songs ranging from the Celtic “An Irish Party in Third Class” to “Time of Your Life” by Green Day.

Instructor Cary Sand lauded his class: “The audience is just going to be sitting there with tears in their eyes and saying, ‘this is music.’ ”

In addition to workshops, extracurricular activities included swimming, Zumba, Garage Band and Improv. Dances, concerts, auditions and talent shows were featured nights.

Despite all of the hard work, students said there was nothing they’d rather do than focus solely on the arts. Some said they were hoping Creative Connections could help prepare them for a creative future.

“If you’re looking to an art career, this is definitely a program to help advance your art skills,” said Alexis Perryman, a Hohenfels senior participating in the “Mixed Media” workshop. Perryman said she hopes to attend an art university in England next year.

Seniors Tyler Boothe from Wiesbaden and Jamar Bajala from Bitburg looked like stage veterans as they portrayed Zeus and Prometheus in rehearsals for a one-act play.

Both seniors have acting aspirations. Boothe said she’s trying to decide between studying law at the University of Michigan and packing up for Los Angeles or New York to pursue her dream.

Boothe recalled her psychology teacher’s advice at Wiesbaden: “You’re going to hate law school, just go for it.”


Members of the drama workshop at the Creative Connections symposium hosted by DODDS-Europe rehearse the one-act play "Prometheus."


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