Each summer, kids around the Wiregrass attend any number of summer camps, whether it’s a nature-themed camp at Landmark Park, an art camp at the museum, or an acting workshop hosted by the Southeast Alabama Community Theatre.
Camp organizers hope this summer will be no different. But the COVID-19 pandemic makes planning for future events a challenge.
“Everybody is really just trying to make plans for a season that we really can’t make plans for,” said Jennifer Love Doherty, general manager for the Southeast Alabama Community Theatre (SEACT). “To that end, we are trying to be as flexible as possible and hold out as long as possible.”
Holding summer camps is a difficult call to make during a pandemic. Even as restrictions are eased, parents may not feel comfortable sending their kids to camps.
Doherty said SEACT has looked at smaller classes to accommodate any ongoing restrictions on social distancing or offering more camp opportunities in July instead of June. SEACT will give refunds for camps they are forced to cancel, but the group is encouraging parents to go ahead and register at seact.com.
Landmark Park is holding registration for its summer camp series (landmarkparkdothan.com), and the park will give refunds if camps cannot be held due to COVID-19.
The Wiregrass Museum of Art is currently evaluating whether it will have the resources to host in-person summer art camps, but the museum does hope to partner with community organizations this summer and provide virtual art instruction and art kits (wiregrassmuseum.org).
Both Landmark and the Wiregrass Museum of Art have been closed since March.
The Cultural Arts Center plans to host summer camps and classes with this year’s roster including a Lego camp, a dragon-themed art camp, a Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master’s craft workshop and even a weekly film-making class.
Ann Cotton, executive director of the Cultural Arts Center, said the center’s Messy Space building, where it holds art classes for both children and adults, can accommodate social distancing between participants. But social distancing means a reduction in the number of people who can attend camps and classes. In the meantime, Cotton said the center is holding online registration for its summer camps (theculturalartscenter.org) and will also give refunds if necessary.
The nonprofit Cultural Arts Center has been closed since March 18, forcing the cancellation or postponement of events, performances, weekly art classes, and fundraisers for both the center and art groups that use the center.
“We have to figure out how we’re going to stay open; we’re going to have to figure out how we’re going to make money,” Cotton said. “When you are a performing arts center how do you social distance both your audience and the cast and crew that’s on your stage? It changes an entire game plan… It’s a lot of thought, a lot of work to practice being safe. There’s not one group in this building that doesn’t want to be safe.”
SEACT had planned on hosting 16 camps this summer — an increase from last summer. But the theater group is at the mercy of its camp venues. SEACT is one of the tenants at the Cultural Arts Center, still closed under Alabama’s restrictions, and some of SEACT’s offsite camp locations have already canceled.
Doherty said the offsite cancellations are completely understandable given the circumstances.
“You want the legal restrictions to support what you’re doing,” she said. “You want the community’s comfort level to be where it is and you want them to feel safe doing the activities that you provided for them. But, then, on the other hand, you also don’t want to add to the current virus spread and you don’t want to be the source of pop-up resurgence in the future.”