How to make the most of your arts summer camp experience

Interlochen Arts Camp’s students and staff share their top tips for thriving artistically and socially at a summer arts camp.

Two Camp musical theatre students smile at the camera.

Every summer, Interlochen Arts Camp welcomes many campers who have never attended an arts camp before. If you're a first-time arts camper—whether at Interlochen or another program—it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, especially if this is also your first time away from home. But with full days of lessons, rehearsals, performances, friendship, and fun, you’ll find the days or weeks fly by far faster than you anticipated. 

To help you make the most of your summer arts camp experience, we sat down with several veteran Interlochen Arts Camp students and staff to learn their top tips for taking advantage of all the artistic and social opportunities your program has to offer. 

Avoid comparing yourself to others

Arts camps welcome students from all walks of life and different stages of their artistic journeys. As such, you may find yourself at the top of your class—or feeling a little behind. 

“It’s OK not to be at the top of your program,” says Charlotte, a creative writing major returning for her sixth summer at Interlochen. “There are always going to be people who are better than you, but you can really learn and grow by getting advice from them.”

Henry, a second-year film student, agrees. “One of my favorite things about camp is the fact that everyone is there to learn,” he says. “Some students know a lot about their art, others know just a little—but everyone feels equal. You’re going to learn a lot, whether you’re an expert or a beginner.” 

“The programs are super supportive,” Charlotte says. “One of my friends was chosen to perform at ‘Collage’ [Interlochen Arts Camp’s multidisciplinary student showcase] last summer. We all cheered for her.”

Fill your schedule

The majority of your daily schedule at arts camp will consist of classes, rehearsals, and structured work time. However, you may have time to explore your camp’s other artistic and social offerings.

“Fill your day and take advantage of as much as you can,” says Interlochen Dean of Camp Jennifer Wesling. “It’s OK to go to bed exhausted every night. We have students go to bed early for a reason!”

Try new things

One of the best ways to make the most of your time at camp is to be open to new experiences. 

“Come to camp open to exploring new things—even things that aren’t entirely in your comfort zone,” Henry says. “For example, I loved playing this game which was basically dodgeball in the woods. The game was offered twice while I was at Camp, but I only participated the second time. I really regretted that I hadn’t joined in the first time!” 

Feeling self-conscious? Wesling encourages students to remember that camp is a supportive community. “Camp is a gentle environment,” she says. “It’s a safe place to make mistakes and explore new things.” 

Get out of the practice room

Although your primary objective for the summer is to grow as an artist, it’s important to take breaks to rest and recharge.

“It’s OK to give up a little bit of practice time to play soccer or gaga ball,” Wesling says. “Fun and physical activity are just as important.” 

“Remember that while you’re at Arts Camp, it’s still very much a camp,” Charlotte says. “You’re there to make friends, have fun, and do camp activities.” 

Henry agrees. “It’s great to stay focused on your art, but don’t be afraid to talk to people, get ice cream, or just hang out in the library,” he says. “I really enjoyed participating in Camp activities, which helped me find a healthy balance between art and recreation. The division leaders work hard to create opportunities for fun—and they know what they’re doing!”

Appreciate other art forms

If you’re attending a camp that offers multiple artistic disciplines, take advantage of opportunities to explore art forms beyond your area of study. Attend performances and exhibitions or mingle with students from other majors. 

“All of the arts are amazing, and all of your fellow students are amazingly talented,” Henry says. “Every day, I’d walk to class and hear a trumpeter rehearsing in a practice hut or see painters working outside. Just seeing other students practicing their art is enriching. I especially enjoyed attending performances with my cabinmates.” 

Spend time investing in new friendships

While practicing your art is important, building relationships with fellow artists will also nurture your creative spirit.

“Often, when we ask students what the best part of their experience at Interlochen was, they’ll say, ‘the friends I made,’” Wesling says. “At Arts Camp, you’ll have the opportunity to meet and have wonderful interactions with people who are different from you. Socialization is a great component of our program, and it doesn’t detract from your artistic experience at all.”

Building friendships with other students in your major is a great way to gain new perspectives on your particular area of interest. “Try to talk to people who have similar goals,” Charlotte says. “I like to ask them, ‘Why did you do this? How did you decide to do that?’ Take advantage of opportunities to learn from your classmates; everyone is willing to help others.”

Making friends outside of your major can be just as—if not more—enriching. “I really enjoyed talking to and making friends with other students outside my artistic focus,” Henry says. “I got to know a number of piano students, and I’m still in contact with most of them. Everyone is so nice—you really feel like you can walk up to anyone and start a conversation.” 

Keep in touch

Don’t just take notes, take numbers: keeping in touch with classmates and friends after camp allows you to create a vibrant artistic community wherever you are. 

“Remember that these friends will last you for a long time,” Charlotte says. “I’m still talking to a lot of the people I went to Camp with last summer, and I know that we’ll be talking right up until Camp starts again this summer!”

“My cabin recently got together on Discord to talk and play games,” Henry says. “Your Camp experience is so much more than the time you spend on campus. It’s always with you.”

Learn more about Interlochen Arts Camp.