Messy fun at “Gram Camp”

Holly and grandkids on "Orange Day".
An oil painting by Holly Pierce

by Libby James

PHOTOS by Libby James

Tuesday was orange day at Gram Camp.

Ten-year old Pierce and five-year-old Payton joined their grandmother, Holly Pierce, all of them dressed in orange outfits for the day. The first thing they did, in this week they are spending with Grandma while their mom prepares for her job at Preston Middle School, was to complete a service project. They picked lots of fruit from a friend’s orchard and planned to share it with the neighbors. Every day of the week, they take some time to do something for somebody else.

Their schedule is full. Pierce, whose grandson has her last name, spent an entire career teaching art and physical education in a total of seven schools in Poudre School District until her retirement from Preston Middle School in 2009 after 11 years there.

She looks forward to this August week every year when she plays camp director for two of her grandkids. Her house and garage are filled with a wide array of art materials and collections of things that can be turned into works of art. The kids are happy to delve into them for hours at a time.

Pierce, whose mother was second grade teacher in Iowa, has an educational gene running through her bones. And she has passed it on. She married a teacher and coach and her two daughters are teachers, both at Preston Middle School. Laura Barnes, 30, has a two-year-old and teaches physical education. Joy Decker, 38, mother of Pierce and Payton, is head of the English department and teaches sixth grade English. Pierce’s son, Matt, 35, is a pilot for Delta Airlines and lives in Texas with his wife and two-year-old daughter.

Pierce always knew she wanted to teach. She enrolled in the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley planning to teach physical education and coach but got sidetracked and majored in art. She took plenty of physical education classes and through the years has taught both and has coached volleyball and swimming.

She was drawn to art because she loved the creative aspect of it. She thrives on messes, she says as she points out the paint splattered floor of her studio. She has hundreds of blue bottles lined up on the wall in her garage…waiting. She’s not sure just how they will end up.

She took four years off from teaching when her kids were very young and explains that when she returned to teaching they became latch key kids, learning to become independent early. “Books were their first toys,” she says. They grew up with a love of learning and then the girls became teachers themselves.

These days Pierce finds time to pursue her art with a tight-knit group of former art teachers who meet to paint every week. She also spends lots of time outdoors and is looking forward to a hiking trip in Europe in the fall. Next summer she hopes her two younger granddaughters will be old enough to join in the fun at Gram Camp. Right now Pierce and Payton are thinking about what they will wear to Gram Camp on Wednesday when blue is the designated color.

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