When the Umpqua Valley Arts Center closed to the public in early March, the Umpqua Valley Arts Board knew they had to find ways to stay connected to the community.
“Putting one foot in front of the other and finding new ways to creatively continue our programming and serve this community that we love was the only way we knew to respond to the challenge,” Community Outreach Director Sarah Holborow said. “Shutting down completely was never an option for us. We knew that the community needed us to step up and continue to be a source of positivity and hope.”
To do this, the center began utilizing social media. It started with a virtual exhibit tour. From that, Art Break was born. Held at 3 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday via the Umpqua Valley Arts Association Facebook page, Art Break includes lessons, gallery tours and artist lectures.
As part of Art Break, the center began giving out 100 free art kits to area youth. Those kits were gone in the first 45 minutes of distribution. The next week was much the same until organizers decided they needed to up the amount. Now, 200 kits are handed out from noon to 4 p.m. on Thursdays with lessons by Arts in Education Director Renee Richardson posted to Facebook at 3 p.m.
“When I asked Renee if we could do this and what kind of art project would be good for kids to do at home, she had all these ideas,” Gallery Director Sandee McGee said. “When it first started, we weren’t giving out kits. We just wanted to immediately respond to the fact that people were at home and we knew they needed this kind of uplifting content. We immediately started with lessons and Renee started with simple things that kids would have at home and it really evolved from there.”
The kits first came together with materials on hand. It began with air dry clay for making pinch pot monsters and clay animals. Then, they tackled printmaking and tube loom yarn snakes. The fourth week brought an opportunity to partner with Oregon State University Extension Program and Douglas County School Garden Hub for art and gardening lessons.
“This represents the doors that are opening and relationships that are forming as a result of this moment in time. We are all working together to rise up and collectively continue our missions, for the betterment of our community-at-large,” Holborow said. “These are the moments in time that truly define us. Not only as individuals but as organizations and as communities as well.”
On Thursday, the center will distribute watercolor colored pencil kits. Kits will contain a full set of Crayola Watercolor Colored pencils, a brush and watercolor paper. For the first time, the center is encouraging students to submit artwork created with this lesson for a future exhibit.
Artwork can be submitted for a Student Gallery Exhibit 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 19-22. One submission will be accepted per person and pieces will be returned after the yet to be named exhibit is held.
“If providing these kits for our local youth changed just one child or family’s life for the better during this quarantine season, than the project goal was achieved. It’s so important to pay it forward when and where you can, and this was our opportunity to pay it forward in a small way to a community that has supported us so generously over the years,” Holborow said.