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The American Clown Academy came to life in 2012. Since then it has had a unique and honored place in the halls of Education in the Clowning Arts.
The Academy started as a partnership between two friends: Jeffrey Potts and Mike Wesley. They wanted to create the very best value and opportunity for clowns and other performers to polish their skills. The numbers say that they have succeeded.
Jeffery Potts began his entertaining career 30 years ago, entertaining kids and adults all over the Canton Ohio area. He moved on to teaching and sharing his appreciation for the arts 15 years ago. In that time he has helped many people to hone their skills and become better entertainers and clowns. His very strong connections to the clown teaching community make it possible for the Academy to continue to attract the finest instructors who wish to help others to achieve their goals of becoming the best entertainers that they can possibly be.
Mike Wesley started clowning 25 years ago, when he founded a weekend clown convention called ClownTown in Newark Ohio. The desire to create a learning environment has continued from those early ClownTown days right up to the present with the American Clown Academy. His organizational skills make sure that the Academy has all the facilities that it needs to continue its mission.
The co-directors of the Academy, Jeff Potts and Mike Wesley, met in the early years of the ClownTown experience. They formed a friendship that has continued to the present day. They had a series of conversations in 2011 where they discussed what would the perfect clown education experience look like. They knew that the best education would occur when students could meet the best instructors in the very smallest class sizes, so that skills could be passed along in a one-on-one type of situation. (Oh, and it should be affordable so that as many people could benefit as possible.)
The Academy is the result of those discussions. Here, the instructors are all the very best in their particular fields. They are given great latitude in their teaching assignments so that they are able to teach what they feel is most important, in the way that is the most beneficial. Their dedication to passing along their knowledge is a cornerstone in the Academy experience. The class sizes are kept as low as possible so that the individual learning experiences can occur. The ratio of students to teachers is approximately 3 to 1.
Another key to making the Academy experience work is the setting. The Academy happens in a small Midwestern town called Newark, in central Ohio. The facilities are a kid’s summer camp, named Camp O’Bannon. This camp has been providing a free summer camping experience to hundreds of kids a year for the past 90 years. And during one week in August, it is the home of the Academy. Due to space limitations at the camp, there will never be more than 50 students. Thus, our goal is not a greater quantity of students, but rather a better quality experience for those students.
The camp experience starts with possibilities for daily exercise. Then it moves on to a full breakfast in the dining room. Lectures fill up the rest of the morning, leading into a camp lunch for everyone. There is an opportunity every day for campers to practice their entertaining skills before an audience of their peers and instructors. This provides a means of getting feedback on what they are doing, and how to improve it. Then there is the afternoon lecture, followed by a catered dinner each day. One more lecture in the evening rounds out the day. All the time after that is open, to allow for a chance to socialize and chat with friends, and to collaborate with others.
The American Clown Academy has pioneered giving students the best individualized education at the lowest possible cost. We take our pioneering status very seriously, and we will keep striving to make the Academy experience the very best in the clowning and entertaining arts.