The Art Center of the Bluegrass is temporarily closed to the public – but that hasn’t stopped us from bringing art to the community. “We are in regular conversation with the Boyle County Health Department and are carefully following updates from Governor Beshear,” says Kinkade. “Since we don’t know how long they will ask us to remain closed, we are working on adapting to this new reality.”
The good news, says Kinkade, is that there are many ways to meet the organization’s mission of connecting people to art, culture, and creativity – apart from in-person classes and exhibits. “This is one of those moments when being a small organization is an asset,” says Kinkade. “We are used to being nimble and flexible. It doesn’t take us very long to put a new idea into action.”
The first thing the Art Center did when faced with the closure of the building was to put their current exhibit – the Kids Art Show of the Bluegrass – online. “It was so disappointing to have to close the exhibit after only one week,” says Exhibitions Director Brandon Long. “The kids worked really hard on their submissions and we wanted to honor that effort.”
A selection of images from the more than 120 pieces submitted to the show are available online at www.artcenterky.org/currentexhibit. Viewers will also find several videos from Exhibitions Director Brandon Long, introducing pieces from the show.
Long is also beginning to collect content for a second virtual exhibit, tentatively titled Connections. He explains, “We would like to use virtual exhibits as a way of celebrating and supporting artists in our community because we recognize that creatives are being particularly hard-hit by the social and economic impact of the public health guidelines regarding community gathering.” This invitational exhibit will showcase artwork by local and regional artists and should be live by the beginning of April.
The Art Center is also using social media to fulfill their mission. “We know a lot of people are spending a lot of time online right now,” says Kinkade. “A lot of the messaging in your Facebook newsfeed is really scary. We wanted people to have something positive to look for as well.”
The Art Center is sharing art-making resources and virtual museum tours through their Facebook page, and has also started creating their own original content. Kinkade has posted several “at home art tour” videos in which she introduces favorite artwork from her home collection. Brandon Long and his family filmed a “catch and release art rock” video and are encouraging other families to join in the fun. Program Director Dionna Baker has filmed several how-to videos that provide mini drawing lessons. The Art Center is also hosting a virtual “Chalk Challenge” – inviting anyone to submit photographs of their sidewalk chalk drawings.
With in-person classes temporarily suspended, the Art Center is offering several options for people looking to create art at home. Thanks to a grant from the Hudson Ellis Foundation and support from Mary Hogsett Primary School, the Art Center has purchased and installed an Outdoor Art Box in front of the building. Modeled after the Little Free Libraries and Community Blessing Boxes, the Art Box will be stocked with free art supplies. “We know that a lot of families don’t have art supplies at home,” says Kinkade. “With the schools and Art Center closed, we wanted to provide those families with the resources to make art at home.” The Art Center is also producing short videos with creative prompts on how to use the supplies from the Art Box.
In addition to the free Art Box, the Art Center is selling several different take-home art kits and supplies. Community members can browse available supply kits – including play-dough kits, paint-your-own-pottery, kindness rock kits – on the Art Center website, then pay online and pick up the kits from a designated retrieval location. “We’re adhering to the guidelines of social distancing by using drop points and online payments,” explains Kinkade. “We want everyone to stay safe.”
Although excited by the new programming opportunities, Kinkade cautions that the COVID-19 shutdown is taking a toll on the Art Center’s finances. She explains that earned income from classes, workshops, building rentals, and art sales accounts for nearly 50% of the Art Center’s annual budget of $350,000. “That revenue is now zero,” says Kinkade, “and we have no idea when that will change.”
The Art Center has a reserve fund, but Kinkade says that it is only a temporary solution. “If we’re going to weather this storm, we will need help from the community. We need donations to keep operating at the level our community knows and expects.” The organization has already made the difficult decision to reduce staffing, but hopes that community donations will prevent further layoffs.
“In times like these, the world needs more art, not less,” says Kinkade. “We want to be there for our community.” To make a donation, click here.