We boarded the train to Horažď'ovice having just recently confirmed our positions working at a summer camp focusing on sustainable creativity for kids called ArtMill. We were met at the station and driven to the mill, about twenty minutes away, along country roads lined with sprawling wheat fields and vibrant red poppies. As we arrived, we were still unsure what our jobs at the camp would be, but it wasn't long before we were appointed to our first task - collecting wildflowers for the opening orientation.
Not long after, we found our niche in the kitchen helping prepare food for the counselors and campers. In the space between meals, we wandered aimlessly and got acquainted with the property. ArtMill currently occupies what was once a massive water-powered flour mill - Červený Mlýn - last renovated in 1927, and existing for over five centuries. The mill itself is situated directly across from (and at a lower elevation to) a sprawling lake, and has been converted to four floors of studio and classroom space, with the uppermost level occupied by droves of nesting swallows, which are visible in every corner of the property.
The days before classes started, with the counselors and campers settled in their respective places, we were approached by ArtMill's director while scrubbing potatoes and informed that the Architecture and Design teacher had canceled last minute, and we were asked to take over. After the initial panic, we found out that our class was scheduled for the following day, and we immediately set to brainstorming ideas for a lesson plan. Inspired by our forest treasures and biomimicry, we decided to teach a lesson about design in nature.
After a brief overview of the basic principles of design, we encouraged each student to design something based on or inspired by the various skulls displayed in class. The results were varied, with some students choosing to take simple forms from the bones to use in their designs, and others looking at it more abstractly - one student went so far as finding inspiration in the moving parts of one skull to liken it to the organized collaboration needed in a shuttle launch.
So far, working at ArtMill has been as hectic as it has been rewarding. We quickly learned that the first tasks - picking wildflowers and then being requested to take over a class - were pretty indicative of the way that this camp is run. Everyone working here seems to want to pour everything they've got into the project - to make this few weeks the best it can be - and so we all run around frantically tying loose ends and doing anything that is needed. There is some special energy inherent in being an artistic, vibrant hub in the midst of endless farmlands and sleepy towns. Here, art is taken seriously - but it is also incorporated into all aspects of the day, and the classes are structured in such a non-hierarchal, conversational way - that the children are naturally taught that art should be revered, but also taken down off the pedestal and recklessly explored.