Young at ART!
This past year, on any given Monday or Tuesday, the museum was filled with the sound of little feet and not so little voices. During the 2019/2020 school year, we hosted more than 3000 students on weekly tours, many through a partnership with Dothan City Schools. Hosting anywhere from 60 to 90 students per field trip, these tours helped us forge a powerful connection with the youth in our community. Our incredible docents and education staff were instrumental in creating cherished memories and instilling a love for art in our area students.
Pictured above: WMA Docent, Lavonda Gosselin, with a group of students from Hidden Lake Primary School on tour.
When COVID 19 hit, much like everyone in education, we were gutted. With several months of the school year remaining, we were concerned about how we could engage students safely. We then remembered the Outreach Art Kits we had created last summer as a parting gift for our Summer Outreach partners. The kits contained art supplies and a sketchbook to allow students to continue creating once our sessions were over. We quickly began creating lessons and searching for supplies, and our new and improved Art Kits were born! Over the next two months, we created and delivered more than 2000 Art Kits, distributed through the DCS Curbside Meal Distribution Program. Included in the kits were watercolors, paintbrushes crayons, paper, and several step-by-step art activities. That’s a lot of art!
You would think that after cutting thousands of pieces of paper and bundling untold numbers of crayons, we would be done creating kits, but we still had a few ideas up our collective sleeves. Because of the virus, we suspended summer camps and face to face outreach for the summer, but we knew we could still engage area students through additional art kits, so we went back to work, creating new lessons and looking for more supplies. We partnered with DCS and the Wiregrass Foundation to get these new kits out into the world. In early July we delivered 500 kits to be distributed on the DCS Summer Food Bus, and throughout July we’ll be delivering around 700 different kits to our Summer Outreach Partners, including Hawk Houston Youth Enrichment Center, Wiregrass Boys and Girls Club, Ozark Boys and Girls Club, Dothan Housing Authority, The Harbor, and Aunt Katie’s Garden. The kits created for our Summer Outreach Partners included quick how-to videos as well so that they could still conduct the art lessons on site. That brings our art kit total since April to around 3200 kits!
Why all the kits? I’m glad you asked! Studies and data have shown us time and again that participating in art is beneficial for child development in areas such as motor skills, language development, decision making, visual learning, inventiveness, cultural awareness, and improved academic performance (Lynch, www.pbs.org). These benefits move beyond the individual, though. Art builds community. According to Shelterforce.org, “Arts and culture have become useful to community development and revitalization by, firstly, building meaningful emotional bonds. Arts and cultural activities can inspire civic pride, connect generations, bridge diverse groups, and serve as a catalyzing symbol of the people as a community.” Art not only helps our children reach their full potential; it helps our communities do the same.
COVID 19 has had a devastating effect on the arts sector worldwide. If your life has been touched or made better by the arts, consider supporting your favorite organization right now. It’s up to all of us to ensure that the arts survive and thrive for generations to come!
If you missed receiving our first round of kits, I’ve included PDFs of the lessons below. CREATE WITH US!
Lynch, Grace Hwang. “The Importance of Art in Child Development.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 16 May 2012, www.pbs.org/parents/thrive/the-importance-of-art-in-child-development.
Kelly, Donald C. “Arts Build Community – Shelterforce: Voice of Community Development.” Shelterforce, 1 Jan. 2000, shelterforce.org/2000/01/01/arts-build-community/.