CELINA — Erica Gelhaus leads the six, small girls gathered at the Richardson Bretz Building, pulsing her arms in a beat, as the children breathe in, breathe out, then pant like a dog.
The breathing exercises are to warm up their vocal chords, Gelhaus tells the children. The former Miss Ohio and St. Henry native also explains to the children how their vocal chords vibrate — whether it be fast or slow — to create high and low notes. It’s all part of “Singers on Stage,” a new Arts in the Parks program presented by Arts Place.
Arts in the Parks, which kicked off Monday, is a summer program that “provides workshops introducing young people to visual and performing arts experiences,” according to a news release.
“Arts in the Parks is one of the many programs that Arts Place runs,” Arts Place Education Director Heidi Meade said.
She noted 2011 is the 35th summer for the annual program.
“Arts and the Parks kicks off today,” Meade said Monday morning. “We’re pretty excited. We’ve got some fantastic classes going.”
Arts in the Parks includes activities in Adams, Blackford and Jay counties in Indiana, and in Auglaize and Mercer counties in Ohio. The Ohio sites include Celina, Coldwater, Fort Recovery, Minster, St. Henry, St. Marys and new this year, Rockford.
“New this year is Parade Float,” Meade said, noting the class is held in Rockford. “It’s a parade class, where we make a big float for the parade for Community Days. We’ll be in the parade this Saturday.”
Class registration, however, went until May 27, but some of the classes are still open.
“Although we do accept walk-ins, slots are filling up fast,” Meade said.
Brochures, which include complete class schedules, are available at Arts Place’s Collective Center in St. Marys and at various community locations. Brochures are also available online at ArtsLand.org.
“We have 83 classes altogether,” Meade said. “We expect 400 children to participate.”
She noted a few Arts in the Parks events that will take place this weekend.
“We will have Skilldini at the farmers’ market this Saturday in St. Marys,” Meade said. “Saturday in New Bremen we will have tie-dye, a musical petting zoo and clay animals.”
In addition to Skilldini (also known as Tim Wright) and Gelhaus, Meade noted a few other instructors.
“We got an African dancer coming from Chicago, we’ve got a juggler coming,” she said. “It’s an amazing time.”
Day classes, Meade said, cost $5 per family.
“It’s totally fun,” Meade said. “You should come and join us.”
The classes, she said, appeal to all ages.
“We have quite a few family classes where everyone is welcome,” she said.
Before Gelhaus’s class on Monday, one of her students spoke with The Evening Leader about her first Arts in the Parks experience.
“We chose this one because we couldn’t go to other ones,” Kylie Niekamp, 6, said of “Singers on Stage.”
Kylie said she was looking forward to the class.
“I came because I thought it was going to be fun,” Kylie said. “I know
how to do opera singing — it’s easy.”
She said she enjoys singing.
“It’s really fun,” Kylie said.
Funding for Arts Place’s Arts in the Parks is provided by Bank of Geneva, Blackford County Community Foundation, Coldwater Kiwanis, College Community Arts Council, Cooper Family Foundation, the County of Jay, FCC (Indiana), Fort Recovery Community Foundation, Indiana Arts Commission, Leota Braun Charitable Foundation, Mercer Savings Bank, Ohio Arts Council, The Peoples Bank Company, Psi Iota Xi, Theta Zeta Chapter, St. Henry Title, Berne Ready Mix, Wayne Builders Supply, St. Marys Community Foundation and more than 60 other contributors.