by Christine Cayer
Sherry Ashton, now in her sixth year as director of the Allens Lane Summer Art Camp, is a veteran of stage and screen who is well suited to fostering a love of performing and visual arts in children aged 5-12. Sherry, a Mt. Airy resident, wanted to broaden her skills in the visual arts after accepting the job of Summer Art Camp director in 2009, so she began taking ceramics classes at Allens Lane Art Center, now in its 63rd year as a Mt. Airy institution.
Before sitting down to talk about her role as director, Sherry put a clay plate with a beautiful engraved flower into the kiln in the center’s studio, walking upstairs for the interview in a clay and glaze-smeared rubber apron. “I’ve also dabbled in drawing and painting,” Sherry said, “but if I had to pick a favorite art form, it would definitely be dance.”
She positively beams. “Although I no longer perform as a dancer, for 20 years my life revolved around dance — performing, choreographing and directing.” Sherry has a dual major BA in dance and psychology from Point Park University in her native Pittsburgh. (When asked her age, she said, “I stopped telling my age at 16.”)
After college, Sherry toured the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Germany and other countries as a dancer in a musical revue. She then moved to New York, where she worked as a dancer, singer, teacher and actor. Sherry was part of several theater repertory companies and had parts in two films and several soap operas. She also managed to get an MS in Information Sciences.
From New York, Sherry and her husband moved to D.C, then to the Philly area, eventually settling 12 years ago in Mt. Airy. “We chose Mt. Airy,” she said, “because of its diversity and amenities, one of those being the Allens Lane Art Center.” She approached Craig Stover, the Art Center’s director, and offered her services. She became the Volunteer Coordinator, writing a manual for the position that is still used.
Meanwhile, Sherry had started a catering and special event planning business, Myriad Services. Sherry began offering catered meals to patrons of the theater at the Allens Lane Art Center. Although Sherry no longer provides that service, she still caters special events at the center. She is also contemplating getting back into acting, should the right role come along.
Besides her Assistant Director, Susanna Horn, who has considerable professional experience in the visual arts, Sherry coordinates a staff of 21 counselors and six specialists, some of whom regularly teach art classes at the center. Sherry herself teaches some of the performing arts classes and choreographs a final staged theatrical performance.
“We aim to have a ratio of one staff person to six campers,” she said. “Several of our counselors have degrees in the arts. We also have an exercise and sports instructor.” Craig Stover is thrilled that the camp is now a bona fide Art Camp, not to be confused with a “Day Camp.”
“Arts education is part of the mission of the center,” said Craig. “Parents are constantly telling me how the Summer Art Camp developed a lasting appreciation for the arts in their child. One recently told me that her daughter now does makeup for Broadway shows and that she got ‘the bug’ at the Summer Art Camp.”
The Allens Lane Art Center’s Summer Art Camp runs from June 29 to Aug. 21, with a pre-camp option June 22-26. Campers can come for just one week (except for the last week) or all eight. On May 31, from 11-2, there is a Summer Art Camp Open House at the Center.
For more information, call 215-248-0559 or visit www.allenslane.org/camp.
Christine Cayer, a resident of Glenside, is a volunteer at Allens Lane Art Center.