Painting kits, videos support active learning
Methow Arts recently shipped 3,000 sets of paper, watercolor paints and brushes to students throughout Okanogan County to help them continue art education while attending school at home.
The art kits will give students quality art supplies to use in conjunction with instructional videos that Methow Arts is creating and offering on its website, said Amanda Jackson-Mott, Methow Arts executive director.
In non-pandemic times, Methow Arts provides schools with a wide range of artist residencies, taught by local and regional artists who instruct students in seven school districts in Okanogan County and Leavenworth. But with most schools operating on a hybrid in-person/remote learning model, traditional artist residencies aren’t happening this fall.
“We want to make sure our local teaching artists who we normally employ don’t lose their jobs,” said Jackson-Mott. As the school year began, Methow Arts surveyed its teaching artists and asked them “who would feel comfortable teaching in-person … most weren’t comfortable,” she said.
“We’ve worked so hard since the late 1980s to incorporate art into learning in these schools. It was very important to me to continue these programs,” Jackson-Mott said. It’s important not only to provide employment to teaching artists, but to give students an outlet for creative expression during these difficult times, she said. “We discovered with the wildfires that art is a way for kids to reflect on their reality.”
Exploring ways to continue to bring art to students, Methow Arts got creative. A couple of doors down from the Methow Arts office on Glover Street is the former Agni Yoga Studio. Methow Arts began leasing the space this fall to use as a video recording studio to produce art lessons that are available on the Methow Arts website for students K-6 who are learning at home, as well as parents and teachers.
“The instruction is geared to the kids. Parents might have to help them read about supplies,” Jackson-Mott said.
As of this week, there were 17 videos offering a variety of art lessons by local and regional teaching artists, such as “Draw a Cat,” “Watercolor Clouds,” “Monster Drawing,” poetry and writing classes, and “S is for Salmon,” an interactive reading by local author/illustrator Hannah Viano.
“I know it’s a little different today, because you are seeing me on a screen and we can’t be together in person,” Viano said in the video, before beginning an animated reading of her book about the alphabet. “I hope that we do get to do that someday later on, but for now, feel free to join in and do the motions with me and play along, just as if I was there with you.”
“The beauty of these recorded lessons is seeing these teaching artists and what they are capable of,” said Jackson-Mott. “We’ve heard from parents that they really love these lessons and they’re easy to use. And the kids like them.”
Painting at home
To support students who are doing watercolor lessons at home, teaching artists urged Methow Arts to provide students the supplies they need, including paints, brushes and real watercolor paper (regular paper just doesn’t produce the same results). Methow Arts staff began working to order the materials several weeks ago, but found that art supplies, like so many other things during the pandemic, are difficult to find.
“Somebody’s hoarding paint sets,” Jackson-Mott said. “There were no paint sets left. They were back-ordered for months. We finally found enough to fill the 3,000 orders and meet the needs. We ended up with eight different vendors.” Then, Methow Arts staff located a vendor with the particular paint set they wanted and enough in stock, so they had to return or cancel the others, Jackson-Mott said. “It took a month and a half longer than expected” to get the supplies, she said.
Once all the supplies arrived, volunteers helped Methow Arts staff create the individual art kits, which include 20 sheets of watercolor paper, a brush and a box of paints. Riverside Printing cut larger sheets of watercolor paper into fourths at no charge, Jackson-Mott said. Then volunteers and staff bundled the sets for delivery to schools, which will distribute them to students.
The supplies cost almost $15,000 — money that Methow Arts hadn’t budgeted. “Normally students would share a paint set in class. But they’re all in their homes,” Jackson-Mott said.
Becoming a video producer is a new venture for Methow Arts, and has been a learning curve for its staff and teaching artists, said Jackson-Mott. “Methow Arts had to completely examine who we were as an organization and shift our job duties,” she said.
Emily Nelson, hired about a year ago to do outreach and community development for Methow Arts, is now focused on producing educational videos. “That’s her full-time job right now. She’s learning it as she goes,” Jackson-Mott said.
“We’ve also utilized people from the community to train teachers to be more comfortable in front of a camera,” Jackson-Mott said. “For a teacher who is used to having a group of students and feeling their enthusiasm, it can be difficult.”
Methow Arts is investing about $10,000 to support the new video production venture, including recording equipment, lighting and rent for the space. Jackson-Mott said Methow Arts will offer the space and equipment at no charge for artists, but will rent the space and recording equipment, and offer tech support, to other organizations or individuals. Bill Hottell plans to use it for his annual history class, she said.
“I imagine this pandemic is going to continue, and there will be [school] closures and reopening,” Jackson-Mott said. “We are planning on continuing lease of that space, I imagine, for a year.”