What’s New With U? – Week 4

What’s Inside

What’s New With U? – Week Four

With the flick of a baton, the turn of a pirouette, the flash of a camera, and the shine of the spotlight, we dove into Week 4.

Orchestra students opened this week with an array of classical and global pieces. On Tuesday, Usdan favorites The Chameleons entertained with their (mostly) silent mime show. Wednesday delivered passionate Concert Band performances, and Thursday brought out the young (and most adorable) Discovery stars and the Junior and Senior Vocal Ensembles. And, on Friday, the Dance Department had us sashaying into the weekend.

From readings to shows to concerts, the week was jam-packed with in-studio on onstage performances. We explored a whole new world with the casts of Aladdin JR.; witnessed the Showstoppers class living up to their name; and beat the heat with the casts of the Frozen JR. Writing and Photography came together in peak visual and literary collaboration, and our fave magical sport flew out of the pages of Harry Potter with the summer’s first Quidditch tournament.

This year’s Gala—dubbed The Sassafras Bash after the whimsical trees that surround our campus—brought out many beloved members of the Usdan family. The largest fundraising event of the year was also, as always, the most fun, fantastical, and fabulous. Guests mingled near The Shed, Pool area, and the picnic grounds which were backdrops for art installations and amazing performances throughout the evening. Honorees Arthur A. Levine, Christina Helbock, and Kelly Hillard, were celebrated for their ability to truly embrace Usdan’s mission to contribute creatively to the world throughout their lives. 

Here’s Looking at U

Every newsletter, we will have a compilation video and collection of photos from the previous week. Scroll through and click on photos to enlarge.

#AMoreSustainableU: Sustainability Tips and Tricks

Sustainability and mindful creativity are alive and well in our studios.

For example, the Sustainable Art & Design class, led by artist Andre Feliciano and inspired by Olafur Eliasson’s Little Sun, aims to “make something out of nothing.” Students use objects one might consider trash—mailing envelopes Amazon boxes, PVC pipes, even old instruments—to create incredible art.  (Check out the rad Captain America shield below, which is also part of another class project using piezo ceramic—movement-generated—energy.)

 And, in Courtney Surmanek’s Art classes, students use old hardcover books as sketchbooks. These upcycled sketchbooks are intended to draw upon the skills built throughout each week in various painting and drawing mediums to include acrylic, watercolor, collage, block printing, and other experimental techniques.  (Read more about what Courtney is up to below.)


Finally, here’s bit of inspiration to close out the week:

“We can’t change the world by playing by the rules. Because the rules have to be changed. Everything needs to change. And it has to start today.” -Greta Thunberg

Summer Learning #Goals

Take a look inside the Usdan classroom to see how our teachers are collaborating with students and what their summer goals are. This week’s segment focuses on the Art department’s Open Studio 2D and Painting & Drawing teacher, Courtney Surmanek.

Courtney’s question of focus for the summer is:

“How can I best inspire students to make bold choices; to create a space where students make those bold choices, and are bold in their own identities?” 

Courtney has done this by focusing on projects that encourage experimentation and improvisation. During the first week, their projects were rooted in discovery. One example is a series of drawing “instructions” that are adapted from Draw It with Your Eyes Closed: the Art of the Art Assignment, from artist Sara Greenberger Rafferty.

The exercise encourages students to think about change, time, erasure, composition, and drawing as an event. Courtney prefaces it with: “I’m going to give you a set of instructions. These instructions are intentionally cryptic. Trust in the process. Anything you do is the right choice!

Giving students the ultimate agency to decide what’s right and what works is a new experience for many of them. The exercise helps students release themselves from a desire for perfection and offers them the ability to explore a range of techniques. 

Gearing Up: Merch Item of the Week

The Sassafras Bash, this year’s summer Gala, is the largest fundraising event of the year.  All proceeds support Usdan’s generous scholarship fund which provides over $1 million dollars in scholarships annually.

Instead of showcasing one of the merch items from our store this week, we invite you to donate to our scholarship fund. If you would like to make a donation to Usdan’s Scholarship Fund, please click here.

Up Next: Upcoming Events and Programming

Next week, we are thrilled to welcome back Pedro Lasch, a visual artist and Duke University professor, for his third and final year of his ambitious art residency.

Upcoming Festival and in-studio performances are sure to make Shakespeare proud. We welcome cool poets, award-winning dancers, and a Broadway (and TV) talent to the Amphitheater. As well, it’s curtains up for the casts of Fiddler on the Roof JR and The Drowsy Chaperone.

Please note: You’re welcome to join us for a performance and backstage lunch. Just contact us at RSVP@usdan.org at least 24 hours in advance to reserve your place. Additionally, if you plan to be on campus past 1:30 PM to experience all these exciting performances, please do not park in the bus field.

The full event calendar, including in-studio showings, demonstrations, and tournaments can be found here. Festival Performances are recorded and can be found on our YouTube page. Next week’s schedule is below:

Monday, July 29
Festival Guest Performance – Mayhem Poets
12:10 p.m. & 12:35 p.m.

Tuesday, July 30
Festival Student Performance – Excerpts from Fiddler on the Roof Jr. 
12:10 p.m. and 12:35 p.m.
In-studio showings and demonstrations:
The Drowsy Chaperone Seniors T2 (10:30 a.m.)
The Drowsy Chaperone Juniors T2 (1:30 p.m.)

Wednesday, July 31
Festival Guest Performance – Ephrat Asherie
12:10 p.m. and 12:35 p.m.

Thursday, August 1
Festival Student Performance – Excerpts from The Drowsy Chaperone
12:10 p.m. and 12:35 p.m.

Friday, August 2
Festival Guest Performance –  Constantine Maroulis
12:10 p.m. and 12:35 p.m.
In-studio showings and demonstrations:
Fiddler on the Roof Jr. Seniors T1 (10:30 a.m.)
Fiddler on the Roof Jr. Juniors T1 (1:30 p.m.)

A Message for U 

It’s the last day of a beautiful four weeks here at Usdan. Executive Director Lauren Brandt Schloss has a message for our friends who are staying, our friends who are leaving, and our friends who will be here soon. 

Administration Corner

Welcome 3-week campers

We are so excited to welcome our 3-week campers to campus on Monday! We’d love all 7-week campers to help us welcome them to campus. Anyone who’d like to be a Usdan Ambassador to help greet our new campers should meet at the Welcome Tent when they get to camp and wear their Ambassador pins.

Think about next summer

As we cherish the days ahead of us this summer, we’re starting to look forward to summer 2020. If you are also thinking of next summer, join our Return2U program and pre-register now for next summer. 

Between today and the last day of our 2019 season, August 16, you can sign up for Return2U and receive 2019 rates and other perks. Additionally, if you pre-register before August 15 for 7 and 3-week campers, your child can ring our end of the session gong (a high honor around here).  You must enroll in the same session length or longer than in 2019. Return2U closes at 11:59 p.m. on August 16, so don’t miss out.

There’s an app for that!

Search and download “Usdan Summer Camp” from the Google or Apple App Store and have all important camp information right at your fingertips. 


Executive Director Lauren Brandt Schloss is giving us a blast from the past with these polaroid photos.

What Do U Think? Weekly Poll Question

This week, we asked campers: What did you learn because of U? Tell us at tellus@usdan.org.

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