South Monterey County art center Sol Treasures is putting on a summer camp this year themed around Japanese culture. Staff say their goal is to mold kids into “samurais of peace” to create a positive impact in their King City community.
Sol Treasures was formed in 2008 by three people in King City. One of the founders, Barbara Pekema, told KCBX News they formed the arts organization to fill a gap in extracurricular programs in the community.
“This community didn’t have anything like an arts center. And so the three of us just got together and said okay, we're going to have a gallery. We're going to do art classes, we're going to just do as much as we can. And it started with just three people, putting out sign-up sheets for people who wanted classes and people who wanted to teach classes. And we just got started, Pekema said.
Since then, Sol Treasures has expanded a lot.
“At first you couldn't get any grants because granting organizations won't give you any money until you've been in business for three years. So we did get one start-up grant from Monterey Arts Council, thank goodness, and that really helped us get going. And then we've just kept working and working, and now I think we have 16 or 18 different granting organizations that we work with,” Pekema said.
And now, the organization’s summer camp has expanded from three days to two weeks, and includes kids ages 6 to 17. They also offer year-round classes and activities for all ages.
Marisol Sanchez is leading the summer camp this year. She said this kind of summer camp is a huge benefit to local kids.
“There is a need. There is a huge need, and I think there has been for a very long time in the community, and I think that's why we are all doing this. We saw a need when we were young, and now everything's finally blossoming in terms of arts and culture scenes in southern Monterey County, and it's phenomenal to be part of Sol Treasures as they're really changing the game here in town,” Sanchez said.
This year’s summer camp theme is cross-cultural and ties into a major world event.
“This is the year of the Japanese Olympics, the Olympics in Japan,” Sanchez said. “So I'm very excited to bring some education about the culture of the country of Japan to some young folks here in town.”
Part of that cultural education will include teaching kids a stretching routine called taiso.
“It's broadcast on the radio and the whole country knows it by heart. It's broadcast on the radio four times a day. It's a series of very simple stretches that works out the entire body,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez, who’s trained in karate, will also teach the kids karate mindfulness lessons and other mainstays of Japanese culture.
“So not full-fledged karate for 6-year-olds, but it's the foundation — so deep breathing and the movements. So it'll end up being kind of like tai chi, because we won't be fighting or doing katas or things like that. And then we'll be doing haikus, so we'll be doing poetry so that they can practice their communication skills, and lots of other skills in terms of imagination and things like that — and collaborating with others,” Sanchez.
According to Sanchez, the symbol of the samurai is an important one in this year’s summer camp — but without the violence associated with it.
“We're doing a peaceful samurai summer camp — Sol Treasures peaceful samurai summer camp 2021. It's the first one — and peaceful samurai because we're doing mindfulness. We're teaching mindfulness — so not fighting — which I think is great because, as we all know in our community, there's a lot of gang violence. So this will be a very stark contrast, and so they'll get to learn about samurais of peace,” Sanchez said.
Jeff Hinderscheid is the executive director of Sol Treasures. He agreed with Sanchez that the “samurais of peace” message is an important one for kids growing up in the King City area to learn.
“One of the biggest things that we can be doing right now is teaching tolerance and acceptance, and that's what a camp like this is really geared toward. Like, the theme is wonderful. The collaboration with all the different instructors being on board with that, Marisol taking the lead — all of it, very beginning, has been a collaborative effort to really impart tolerance and acceptance for these young people as they go into this weird, possible half-school year, masks, COVID, all the stuff that's been going on,” Hinderscheid said.
The summer camp is ongoing, and you can learn about it and the art center’s other efforts at soltreasures.com.