SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - Adrienne Mtume has spent her life collecting artwork and stories of the people and cultures she’s encountered while traveling the world.
In 2012, Mtume created a Global Arts summer camp at the South Mountain YMCA to share those experiences with young children and open their eyes to cultures far beyond the boundaries of Maplewood and South Orange.
“I collect art and I love to travel; the Global Arts camp brings together all my experiences and passion,’’ said Mtume, director of school age child care at the South Mountain Y.
The New Jersey chapter of the Association of YMCA Professionals recently honored Mtume with its prestigious Program Leadership Award for creating the camp, where kindergarteners through second-graders explore cultures through arts and crafts, music, food and other activities.
“The Global Arts camp is a point of pride for the South Mountain YMCA and we’re pleased that Adrienne’s efforts have been recognized,’’ said Marcia Meehan, the branch’s executive director. “Adrienne showed strong leadership in conceiving the camp and carrying it out so adroitly that enrollment has tripled since the first summer,’’ Meehan said.
Jennifer MacAfee, assistant director of the Y’s Early Childhood Learning Center and director of the Y Knots Camp, nominated Mtume for the honor.
“The Global Arts camp embodies the Y mission, teaching children social responsibility through respect for other cultures, supporting youth development through its regard for the arts, and promoting healthy living through traditional camp experiences such as swimming and games,’’ MacAfee said. “It instills in children a greater understanding of other cultures and teaches them the importance of respecting individuality.’’
In one of the sessions this past summer, campers learned about the history of the Inuit, indigenous people in Canada, and how they live today. The children were introduced to Inuit dance and storytelling, took archery lessons and made traditional food that they served to their parents, Mtume said.
They built an igloo out of plastic milk jugs, designed button blankets, heavily decorated ceremonial wraps worn around the shoulders, and made Mukluks out of sweater sleeves and shoes.
Art projects at Global Arts camp are process-oriented and far more involved than typical arts & crafts, Mtume said. Each camp session ends with an art gallery to show the children’s work.
The South Orange resident began her professional life as a costume designer, working for the New York State Shakespeare Festival and various R&B bands and artists. Her husband, James Mtume, is a Grammy-award winning musician who worked with jazz great Miles Davis and who wrote hit songs for numerous artists, including Teddy Pendergrass, Roberta Flack and Mary J. Blige, as well as his own band, Mtume.
In 1994, the mother of four began working at South Orange’s after-school program and was the assistant director when the South Mountain Y assumed operations in 2011. She has traveled to Ghana, Italy, France, Great Britain, most of Central America, the Caribbean, Mexico, and Canada, and throughout the U.S.
“I’m pleased that people recognize the value of being connected to other people around the world and that they want their children to have those experiences,’’ said Mtume. The grandmother of six has two beloved tuxedo cats, Nick and Pirate.