This is your first year as Camp Manager, but you’ve been working with COCA and our education programs for a while. Tell us a little bit about your new role and your previous involvement with COCA.
Lauren: I started working at COCA as a teaching assistant as a teenager. I spent a few summers working at the offsite camps we used to hold at Whitfield School. Working as a teaching assistant showed me firsthand how teaching art was a way to combine my passions of both creating art and working with children. After graduating college in 2016 and working as full-time art teacher for two years, I decided I wanted to start working in arts administration. I started at COCA again, but this time as an Education Fellow in 2019, while I was working on my master’s degree. My experience with this position gave me the opportunity to work as the Assistant Camp Manager in the summer of 2019. Both positions ended that summer, and I thankfully was able to stay on full-time as the Support Services Coordinator where I worked with students who were interested in COCA’s Pre-Professional Division. My current title is Arts Learning Manager. I oversee the arts learning programs we have in schools and community centers. This position allows me to wear two hats—come spring and summer, I am Camp Manager.
What is your favorite part of COCA camps?
Lauren: My favorite part of camp is getting to see our beautiful facility filled with children getting exposure to the arts. We offer such a variety of camps, and I truly believe we have a camp for everyone. One of our camp goals is to spark joy. That is what I feel when I walk around the building and watch the amazing things that our teaching artists do with our campers week to week.
What are you most excited about this summer?
Lauren: We made our goal of reaching 5,000 campers this summer. And, we couldn’t be happier about this! I am looking forward to the collaborative work from our camp management team and our teaching artists to provide a great camp experience for our campers.
What do you hope campers take away from their camp experience?
Lauren: I hope campers have a peaked interest and respect for the arts after their camp experience. I hope they’ve made memories that will last a lifetime with their teaching artists and fellow campers. I also hope campers will return for classes or more camps in the near future.
What are your hobbies or what do you enjoy outside of COCA?
Lauren: I am a practicing artist. When I’m not at COCA, you can usually find me in my studio painting. I’m an abstract painter who loves exploring with color and movement. I show my work when I can. My most recent gallery showing was this past April in Cape Girardeau, MO, at my alma mater, Southeast Missouri State University. You can check out my work at laurenyounge.com.