By Julia Trupp
Anthony Sysoukrath sits at his workplace, charcoal pencil in one hand and his smart phone – with a Minecraft computer game-filled screen for inspiration – in the other.
It is the last day of the Fay Jones School’s annual Design Camp. Students are creating their models for “Maple Creek,” this year’s outdoor classroom project, and Sysoukrath is worried that he is not good at drawing and cannot get the scale right for his model.
“I just need to figure out what I really want it to look like and overcome the challenge of that with deeper thinking and outside factors. I need to factor in these things until I get it right,” he said.
This seemed to be a common hindrance for students attending Design Camp. With parents coming later that day for an open reception, students started to become antsy and moved around the studio like nervous chefs on opening night of their restaurant.
X-Acto knives, hot glue guns, air dry clay, branches and twigs covered desks and workspaces, adding more organized chaos to the environment. Projects were finally starting to come to life, and parents would be arriving soon.
Sysoukrath came to Design Camp to gain experience before he goes on to college at Texas A&M in College Station, Texas. He said he likes the location and the architecture program there. After taking classes through the Engineering and Architecture Academy at Springdale High School, where he is finishing his last year of high school, he wanted to expand his experience.
When Sysoukrath was a child, he played video games with his uncle. The style and artistry in a game peaked his interest more than its storyline. Instead of playing the game “Ratchet and Clank,” he stared at the buildings.
“I kind of use the buildings I’ve seen before to influence and inspire my design and the overall style,” he said.
Blaire Baxter, a Fayetteville High School freshman, experienced a similar feeling when she realized that she was interested in architecture and design. She said that, before Design Camp, she had never been to summer camp before. She signed up because she wanted to gain some experience and “get a feel for it all.”
“I’m really into modern art and modern architecture, and there are a bunch of amazing buildings, especially (Marlon) Blackwell’s houses. My mom – she is an artist – has a subscription to Dwell magazine, so I’d see his stuff, and we’d drive by and see ‘the house with the creek under it,’” she said, referring to Blackwell’s own residence near Wilson Park. “I like architecture more than something in the medical field. It’s more creative and artistic in a way – it’s a different kind of creative. And I like modern architecture a lot, so that’s what I want to specialize in.”
Digital and visual art are not the only inspiring factors for these developing designers. Taylor Lowe, a senior at Northside High School in Fort Smith, signed up for Design Camp after his Talent Search advisor let him know about it. Lowe said he has been interested in architecture for a while, and being the only Razorback fan in a family full of Oklahoma Sooners, coming to camp – and later school – at the U of A was a dream.
“I see myself living in Fayetteville, but beyond that – and I’m not for sure – I’m thinking about building bigger buildings like skyscrapers and campus buildings,” Lowe said about a potential future in architecture.
Lowe said that he wasn’t facing any challenges during the camp and that the professors were really helpful and friendly.
The Fay Jones School has held Design Camp for several years, and this year boasted the highest enrollment in its history with 41 students in the Fayetteville camp. John Otten, a senior at Haas Hall Academy in Fayetteville, attended Design Camp last year and liked it so much that he wanted to return.
“This year has a much larger class, and the projects are about the same, but it seems more in-depth in some areas this year,” Otten said. “We are going to different locations on field trips.”
Otten said that he has always enjoyed the drawing side of architecture and design because he enjoys having the creative side “that makes things come to life.” He usually relates his designs to nature and, this year, imagined his outdoor classroom as looking like a crawfish tail he found in Maple Creek. Along with creativity, though, comes hindrances.
“The challenge is understanding all the physical challenges presented by the environment and working with them. I didn’t realize how detailed it was,” he said of the creek site.
Otten said he enjoyed both years of Design Camp, and looking into the future, he wants to see other options.
“I assume in the future I will go into architecture professionally, but, the more I look into it, the more I see how much goes into it,” he said.
Although this year’s project focused on the outdoors, prospective interior design students also attended the camp. Markayla Lusher, a senior at Farmington High School, did not know for sure whether she wanted to go into architecture and design, but when her school made the announcement one morning for the camp, she asked her mom to sign her up.
“I’ve always liked how things fit together. I see something in a room and want to help people see whatever it is the same way in that environment,” she said. “But with that, the challenges I have faced (in Design Camp) are drawing the details. I look at the bigger picture, not drawing small little details.”
On the topic of whether she will continue down this pathway, Lusher said she does not look that far into the future.
“I’ll either be going big in one place or helping people everywhere. I want to travel and maybe not isolate myself to one project all the time,” Lusher said. “I want to be working on a lot of things all over the world.”
In case you missed it: read Part 1 of the Design Camp posts.