If you have driven by the Art Center of the Bluegrass lately, you may have noticed an addition to the exterior landscaping in the form of a glass-fronted box. Inside the unassuming exterior, treasures await in the form of free art supplies.
The Art Center installed the Art Box in front of the building in March, thanks to funding from the Hudson-Ellis Fund and Mary G. Hogsett Primary School. Modeled after the “little free libraries” and “blessing boxes” that can be found across the country, the Art Box is an outreach tool, designed to make art supplies accessible to families who may not have them.
In its first two months of operation, the Art Box has housed paper doll templates, greeting cards for Mother’s Day, a mixed media tree art project, sketchbooks, crayons, colored pencils, sticker books, and more. Art Center Executive Director Niki Kinkade says the organization has distributed more than 200 art kits through the Art Box so far – and they have big plans for the summer.
“We’re excited to give the Art Box a literacy focus for the summer,” explains Kinkade, “thanks to a new partnership with the Gladys Project and the Boyle County Community Early Childhood Council, the kits in the Art Box for June and July will each be connected to a children’s book.”
The Art Center will share a link to a narrated video of one book each week via their social media channels and will put together a corresponding art project that aligns with the book. The supplies for the art project will be available in the Art Box on Tuesday of each week on a first-come, first-served basis.
“We know how important it is for families with young children to read together,” says Kinkade. “There is so much research out there on the importance of literacy skills for kindergarten readiness. We also know that art can be a wonderful vehicle to support those early literary explorations. Making artwork inspired by a book engages children in the creative experience and creates really positive family interactions.”
The Gladys Project provides supportive literacy services to families with children ages 0-5. Gladys Project Director Amy Adkins says she hopes to reach new families through the Art Box collaboration. “This is a great opportunity for families to learn more about the services we provide,” she explains.
Families receiving services from the Gladys Project are eligible to receive free copies of the books chosen for the art projects. To find out more about the Gladys Project and its free programs, families can contact 859.209.1618 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Niki Kinkade explains that the Art Box is an example of how the organization is innovating in the wake of the COVID-19 virus. “We are working hard to create art opportunities for our community that conform to social distancing requirements,” she explains. “Increasing access to the arts is one of our core organizational values, so the Art Box fulfills our mission in a way that is extremely relevant right now.”
Upcoming Featured Books:
- Week of June 2 – “Little Cloud” by Eric Carle
- Week of June 9 – “Beautiful Oops” by Barney Saltzberg
- Week of June 16 – “The Crayon Box that Talked” by Shane Derolf
- Week of June 23 – “Elmer the Patchwork Elephant” by David McKee
- Week of June 30 – “The Night Before the 4th of July” by Natasha Wing