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Arts organization's art kits help students get creative at home

Photo courtesy of Amy Piñon
Arts Corps’ two-week summer program, “Arts Liberation and Leadership Institute,” in 2019. The program focuses on arts, leadership, race and social justice. ";s:3:

When schools closed as a result of the pandemic, the local art education organization Arts Corps quickly shifted online. But its teaching artists worried that students without access to internet or art supplies would have challenges continuing their learning online.

So, the organization has been assembling art kits full of various supplies. The kits are distributed at locations mostly in the areas Arts Corps serves, including some school meal pick-up locations.

Arts Corps offers both in-school and after-school art programs. Serving primarily K-12 students in South Seattle and South King County, the organization’s goal is to address the race and income-based opportunity gap in accessing arts education.

James Miles, executive director at Arts Corps, said it’s especially important now for students to have the tools to create art.

“We’re providing a way for young people to express themselves, to imagine a world, create, to capture what’s happening, put it down as a record for both them, for the communities, for the families, for the schools, and for the world,” Miles said. 

The art kits include paint brushes, pastels, paper and even coloring books. Miles said that Arts Corps distributed the kits to more than 300 families during the last distribution in April. The organization is putting more kits together now and expects to give out the next round in June. 

Arts Corps' art kits include paint, paper, pastels, coloring books and directions to access the organization's online courses and other resources.
Credit Photo courtesy of Sabrina Chacon-Barajas
Arts Corps' art kits include paint, paper, pastels, coloring books and directions to access the organization's online courses and other resources.

Like many educators, Arts Corps’ teachers have all moved online, as well. Meredith Arena is an artist who teaches about the intersection of theater and poetry. She said recreating art lessons online can be challenging.

“Our work is so interactive and so much about being bodily present in the room, with our students, creating a sense of celebration and joy and creativity and really community and sense of belonging,” Arena said. “It’s based in social interaction.”

Arena says teachers are making sure their lessons are accessible by using supplies that could be found in most homes — such as paper clips or rubber bands — and offering learning packets in English and Spanish that teachers can do with their classes online.

The sites that will offer the next round of kits have not been determined yet. Arts Corps has been working with the Highline Schools Foundation, a nonprofit that supports Highline Public Schools, to coordinate the distribution of the kits. When the locations are chosen, the kits will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Arts Corps recently received grants from ArtsFund’s COVID-19 relief fund and annual keystone grant. Miles said the grants will help Arts Corps continue paying its staff and purchasing supplies for the art kits.

Rebekah Way is an on-call news host at KNKX. She began her career in public radio as a news intern at KNKX, where she's also worked as an interim producer and reporter. Rebekah holds a life-long passion for music and also works as a professional musician and educator in the Seattle area.