As we wrap up the summer and prepare programming for the fall, we wanted to take a moment to share highlights from the last year, one that was filled with unprecedented challenges and many accomplishments. We found new and innovative ways to reach the children and families of Virginia with the power of the arts, despite COVID-19 restrictions. And we look forward to continuing to do so, wherever and however students are being schooled. Enjoy!
Everybody loves snacks…and our Arts + Learning Snacks are no exception. Look at the big smiles on these kids’ faces as they received their free art activity kits. We handed out 250 snack kits to children who attended the “One City Wake Up and Read Summer Kick-Off” this month in Newport News. And word has it that at Virginia Beach Public Libraries, they’re flying off the shelves because “everybody loves them.”
Who wouldn’t love an engaging, hands-on art activity?
Find out more about our Learning Snacks by clicking here!
Take art supplies, mix them with heaping portions of creativity, and serve them to elementary-aged kids hungry for a break from screen time—that’s our winning recipe for Arts + Learning Snacks, which are now being delivered to area elementary schools. These art activity kits have the right ingredients for kids to use their hands and minds to make an art project by themselves or with their caregivers.
Five Norfolk public elementary schools have received the first batch of Learning Snacks, which feature instructions in English and Spanish on how to create a mini-comic. A4L’s comic artist Matt Harrison designed the curriculum, which includes supplies and calls for students to invent characters, plots, and settings as they write and draw their own comic adventures.
A number of artists and board members have stepped up to help assemble the snacks, following all COVID-19 safety precautions.
Storyteller Via Goode and board member Diane Gibson had the honor of delivering the first snacks to five Norfolk elementary schools: Jacox, James Monroe, Lindenwood, Tidewater Park, and Richard Bowling.
Another Learning Snack, the “Zen of ‘Za,” will be distributed soon. The snack is custom designed for students with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), tying movement of the body with lines in art; activities include students stretching to “make a pizza” and creating a decorative “pizza” out of the art materials supplied. A4L dancer Jae P Renee is creating supplemental videos with visual instructions for students. Two hundred of these snacks are headed to the Portsmouth Autism Resource Team (PART) for distribution. The Zen of ‘Za will also be provided to a number of schools for use by kids in kindergarten through third grade who don’t have an ASD diagnosis.
The two current Learning Snacks—with a new one now being developed—will be distributed for free to more students via additional elementary schools in Norfolk and Portsmouth, Virginia Beach Public Libraries, the Newport News FACE office, and community sites in Portsmouth.
There’s a little added bonus for Norfolk’s PB Young Elementary School from the Snacks’ initiative. Thanks to Office Depot’s “Give Back to Schools” program, the school has received $115 in rewards from the money we’ve spent to purchase supplies for the kits.
The snack kits give under-resourced students a break from screen time and the challenge of a hands-on arts project that aligns with Virginia’s fine arts and literacy Standards of Learning. Would you like to help bring more Learning Snacks to children in economically disadvantaged areas of Hampton Roads? Click here to donate.
Do you want to learn how you can bring Learning Snacks to your school, library, or community center? Start by clicking here for more info!
We’re grateful to our partners who are underwriting the cost of these “meals for the mind”—thanks to Aldi Smart Kids, the E.C. Wareheim Foundation, the Hampton Roads Community Foundation, the Portsmouth Service League, and the Virginia Beach Arts and Humanities Commission for their major support of this new initiative.
Tidewater Family Plus featured Arts for Living’s CEO, Chris Everly, in its March issue. As a parent, what did she tell her son when he was thinking about a job in the arts? Click below to read her answer! https://www.tidewaterfamily.com/learning-fun/art-folks-meet-christine-everly
Plus there’s much more, including how COVID-19 has changed Arts for Learning for the better.
Woo-hoo! It’s a happy day here at Arts for Learning, as we were thrilled to receive the Dominion Energy ArtStars Award for Eastern Virginia last night at the Virginia Commission for the Arts’ live virtual conference. Dominion Energy presented the award, which comes with a $10,000 prize, for A4L’s “Take 10” digital programming, recognizing the project’s innovation, enterprise, and artistic quality.
When Virginia’s schools shut down last March, more than 350 hours of our programming was canceled, threatening our mission to connect students with the power of the arts. But our mission was not interrupted. Within days, the Arts for Learning office in Norfolk was transformed into a makeshift recording studio, artists took a leap of faith and tried something new, and our program team figured it out on the fly, including how to shoot and edit video while following strict safety protocols required by the global pandemic. The result: 118 ten-minute video segments that served as engaging and educational art breaks for students and families who were suddenly thrust into remote learning.
Take 10 was a major team effort,” says Christine Everly, CEO of Arts for Learning. “We had no budget, no prior expertise, and no production studio—but we knew we had to find a way around those obstacles. Especially during the COVID crisis with students learning at home, we needed to reach them through the power of the arts. And we also wanted to provide some income for our artists who suddenly found themselves unemployed.”
Participating artists received stipends for their work on Take 10. The program ended in June, but Arts for Learning’s commitment to quality virtual arts programming did not. Thanks to an investment in new video technology and additional training for staff and artists, Arts for Learning now offers dozens of virtual arts experiences to schools, libraries, and community centers. The $10,000 ArtStars’ prize money will support Arts for Learning’s efforts to continue to build a digital library of engaging and innovative new programming to connect students with the arts, wherever and however they are being schooled.