Buck's Rock Performing and Creative Arts Camp is an educational summer camp located in New Milford, Connecticut. The camp was established in 1942 by Dr. Ernst Bulova and his wife Ilse, Austrian educators who had studied under Maria Montessori.
Ernst (1902–2001) and Ilse Bulova were Austrian educators living in Germany in the early 20th century. Dr. Bulova ran an educational radio programme in Berlin, but, following the Nazi’s rise to power, was forced to flee to England, where he and his wife established a Montessori school. However, after the pressure of World War II became too great, the Bulovas left for the United States.
The Bulovas originally came to New York, where Ernst had relatives at the Bulova watch corporation, but eventually settled in New Milford, Connecticut. There, they chose to found a camp in which to apply their convictions about how young people learn and founded "Buck's Rock Work Camp".
The camp, located on hilly farmland, was originally intended as a refuge for British children during World War II. However, when the British children never arrived (one of the earliest evacuee ships was torpedoed by the Nazis), the Bulovas decided to recruit young people from the Tri-State Area of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to help the war effort by building structures and farming. The emphasis on farming and construction gradually gave way to a focus on creative work as the war ended, and the camp officially changed its name to "Buck's Rock Performing and Creative Arts Camp" in 1975.
In 1974, after 32 years as the directors of the camp, Ernst and Ilse invited former counselors Lou and Sybil Simon, Jo and Carol Jochnowitz and Irwin and Roberta Burger to become their successor. The new directors delegated responsibilities among themselves - Sybil interviewed campers, Lou arranged the staff, Irwin ran the kitchen, Carol ran the Batik Shop, and Jo ran day-to-day operations, including maintenance, and was generally the most beloved person at Buck's Rock. In addition, while they were no longer running the camp, the Bulovas continued to play an important role as consultants to the camp's summertime operations for the remainder of their lives.
While the collaboration between these couples lasted for a period of time, it came to an end in the 1980’s after Jo and Carol Jochnowitz were forced out from the partnership, leaving a huge void that took many years for the camp to recover from.
This exodus began a period of instability of ownership through the 1980s and into the early 1990s, which ended in 1996 when Buck's Rock was sold to Mickey and Laura Morris, who have directed the camp's operations since that time. Laura is the daughter of former owners/co-directors Irwin and Roberta Berger.
Although Buck's Rock has been through several directors since the Bulovas' retirement, their original vision of a camp offering freedom of choice combined with highly skilled teachers and artists as well as a strong emphasis on ensuring effective guidance has been maintained.
In 2001, coinciding with a memorial ceremony following Dr. Bulova's death, a group of alumni spanning the camp's 50-year history founded a non-profit organization called Friends of Buck's Rock (FOBR), to promote the educational ideals and philosophy of the camp's founders. In addition to sponsoring alumni events, FOBR has served as a fund-raising organization, partnering with Buck's Rock's current directors to make it possible for financially-disadvantaged teenagers to attend camp on full or partial scholarships.
Campers at Buck's Rock range from age 11 to 17. If a camper is 15 1/2 or older, they may apply to become a Counselor-in-Training (CIT) in an area of their choice. A CIT spends half their day working in their shop area, and half the day as a camper. Many CITs go on to become Junior Counselors and full staff in later years; Buck's Rock staff is made up of 50% returning staff each summer.
As dictated by the Montessori system, there is no specific schedule for when campers may participate in shop activities. However, a basic daily schedule does exist, denoting mealtimes, special activities, and bed time. This schedule is marked by the ringing of the gong, an old railroad locomotive wheel that can be heard throughout the entire camp.
Every evening there are activities for campers and staff to participate in, including movies, performances, recitals, and exhibits of camper work. Buck's Rock puts on more than two dozen performances each summer.
The culminating event of each summer is a Festival Day during which relatives, friends, and other guests visit the camp to view the artistic work and attend the various performances that the campers have created.
Buck's Rock offers more than 40 shop areas (listed below), performance settings, and other activities in which campers can choose to participate. In addition to more typical camp activities such as athletics and swimming, Buck's Rock has full facilities offering expert instruction in the manual arts and crafts as well as in the performing arts. Each area at Buck's Rock is staffed by professional artists, performers, and teachers.
Shops: Animal Farm, Batik, Book Arts, Ceramics, Clown, Computers, Costume, Culinary, Dance, Digital Imaging, Fleen, Glassblowing, Lampworking, Leather, Lighting and Sound Design, Metals/Jewelry, Mushed (Music Shed), Painting/Drawing, P.A.S.S. (Printmaking and Silkscreen Studio), Radio, Set Design, Sculpture, Sewing, Sports, Studio 59, Theatre, Video, Weaving, Wood
The camp has hosted a number of prominent folk performances, including ones by Simon & Garfunkel and Pete Seeger. Lectures and workshops given by prominent artists have been a staple of the camp since its inception, with visits ranging from Leni Riefenstahl to Maury Yeston. In more recent times, the camp has hosted alumni parent Kevin Bacon's band The Bacon Brothers. The camp has also hosted Canadian staff band Hunter Valentine.