Photo by Sue Watson
Two members of the performing arts ensemble are Alan Herring and Kaden Pillstrom.

Photos by Sue Watson
Pictured with artwork from the camp in Byhalia are Ja’Lyla Austin, Jasper Austin and (in back) Alisa Austin.

Monica Smith (instructor in ceramics) is pictured at the camp working with Preston Mundy.

Youth Camp for Arts a big hit

“Art is as natural as sunshine and as vital as nourishment.” – MaryAnn F. Kohl

So what’s more fun than being on summer break from school? How about being on summer break and also participating in art camps at the historic Byhalia High School in Old School Commons? Just ask the 35 campers, many of whom have come year after year to this annual summer camp for arts education.   

June 2017 marked the sixth year for the Margaret M. Grow Youth Camp for the Arts, funded through the generous support of the Margaret M. Grow Charitable Foundation and provided through the Byhalia Area Arts Council (BAAC). This year about half of the campers chose the visual arts camp while the others selected the performing arts/ musical theatre camp. At the end of the week, a large community turnout of close to 100 family, friends, and area residents enjoyed an art exhibit and musical theatre performance displaying what the campers learned that week. A reception followed.      

“The annual camps are getting better every year,” said Faye Woods, director of the Visual Arts Camp and president of the BAAC. “It’s a blessing to give area youth an opportunity to express their creativity.”

Joining the performing arts education team this year were Tobie Pillstrom, who taught theatre at Desoto Central Middle School, and her older son Brady, who has about six years’ experience in theatre and four in dance. Tobie Pillstrom directed “School’s Out, Let’s Rock” which included musical theatre selections from the classic “Schoolhouse Rock Live.” Meredith Koch, BAAC board member and art camps co-founder, assisted as support educator.  

Visual arts camp instructors were Rita Etheridge, Monica Smith, Christal Simpson, Savanna St. John, and Faye Woods. Christal Simpson is an arts instructor at Center Hill Elementary School. Faye Wood teaches the BAAC Arts Connection classes, supported by the Byhalia Lions Club, at Byhalia Middle School. The visual arts camp’s theme this year was “Nature All Around.” Visual arts campers worked with watercolor, multi-media, and ceramics. Campers displayed their art in an exhibit during the week’s closing program and reception.      

Campers need a good lunch to keep creativity going. Volunteers Carolyn Burrow and Eleanor Fordyce managed the lunch service for the camps. Other helpers included Tommy Woods, Lynleigh Pillstrom, Jacob Simpson, and BAAC board member Marylane Wade Koch.

BAAC thanks community sponsors including the Margaret M. Grow Charitable Foundation, the Town of Byhalia, the Byhalia Area Chamber of Commerce, Champion Awards and Apparel, and Piggly Wiggly of Byhalia. Other supporters for this year’s camps were Citizens Bank, Bonnie Swartz, and Linda Turner with the Mississippi Tobacco-Free Coalition.        

Featured artists included Ja’lyla Austin, Riley Baldwin, Kaici Buffington, J.C. Burrow, Juslyn Chea, Elizabeth Duggan, Hunter Haas, Jayleigh Haas, Emily Harper, Alex Hughes, Brent Hughes, Nhari Jones, Colton Lee, Gracie Lee, Preston Mundy, Evelyn Row-Button, Josh St. John, Mary Watkins and J.P. Woods.

The performing arts ensemble included ac­tors/dancers Quentin Allen, Evy Allen, Jolie Chea, Madison Dancy, Katie Estrada, Chelsea Grant, Zion Griffin, Alan Herring, Mary Claire Herring, Marcus Hill, Kyleigh McClure, Caterra Oliphant, Kaden Pillstrom, Katy Stuard, Cooper Turner and Garret Turner.

For more information about the Byhalia Area Arts Council (BAAC), contact president Faye Woods at Also visit the BAAC Facebook page or check the website at    

BAAC is a non-profit organization. Its purpose is to support and enhance cultural arts opportunities for all residents of Byhalia and the surrounding areas and Marshall County.

Holly Springs South Reporter

P.O. Box 278
Holly Springs, MS 38635
PH: (662) 252-4261
FAX: (662) 252-3388

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