Penland’s Community Collaborations Program is dedicated to bringing art opportunities to students and neighbors in our local community. Sometimes, this work takes place on campus through our summer kids camps and events like our Community Open House. But more often, it happens in local classrooms thanks to longstanding partnerships with our Mitchell County schools. And now that our local schools are closed and a stay at home order has been issued in North Carolina, our Community Collaborations staff have pivoted their work toward new approaches that can help bring art opportunities right to our neighbors’ homes.
One of these efforts is an adaptation of Penland’s Teaching Artist Initiative. For decades, Penland’s Meg Peterson (pictured above) has been working with local students and teachers to create involved handmade journals that weave art into classroom studies of science, history, writing, and more. It’s hands-on, material-intensive work that encourages individual exploration and discovery. And now, Meg hopes, it’s something that her 3rd and 4th grade students can continue working on at home. This week, Meg has been busy creating 166 packets for them that include materials and prompts that mesh with the science curriculum in their classrooms—investigations of soil and landforms in one school, and explorations of body systems and nature observation in the other. “Students at Gouge Elementary are getting a whole kit to make natural earth paints,” Meg explains. The kits include gesso board, instructions, information on prehistoric cave painting and aboriginal earth painting, and a sample of a prevalent local rock. “The rock easily grinds to powder,” Meg says. “Then students can turn that powder into the most beautiful red-orange pigment.”
A second initiative is tied to the food distribution service recently established by Mitchell County Schools. The service has been delivering an incredible 1000 meals per day to families in our area, and it will now be delivering art materials, too! Penland staff members Stacey Lane (above) and Lisa Rose teamed up with local art teachers Leslie Dickerson, Melisa Cadell, and Olivia Ellis, as well as some of Penland’s Subs with Suitcases teaching artists, to create a set of prompts that can engage students and their family members of all ages. “Find an object from outdoors in nature…take a close-up look at the object and draw only the part your eyes have zoomed in on,” suggests one prompt. “Challenge yourself: Draw a glass of water with or without ice,” suggests another. Stacey, Lisa, and Penland core fellows Mitsu Shimabukuro, Erica Schuetz, and Mo Nuñez put in long hours this week to package the prompts together with materials such as colored pencils, a sharpener, paintbrushes, paper scraps, and book board. All told, they created 434 art packets that will go out to Mitchell County families this week.
This is certainly a difficult time for communities across the country, and our rural corner of North Carolina is no different. We hope that these efforts will bring a bit of creativity and fun to the next few weeks as we all try to adapt to the difficulties and uncertainties of this new normal.
For anyone else out there who would like some fun art ideas, you can find the prompts here: Art at Home Activities.