Food for the artist's body and soul
When Pablo Picasso said, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life,” he probably wasn’t talking about washing away COVID-19 germs. But when the pandemic hit in March of 2020, many arts programs that offer the soul-cleansing Picasso was talking about – along with many other facets of life — were put on hold.
Because of this, in January of 2021, the Ludington Area Center for the Arts started looking for a way to offer people in the community some access to the arts.
“We were trying to think of how we could promote the arts and get art supplies into the hands of people who didn’t have the disposable income to buy them,” organization executive director Andrew Skinner said.
The idea that they came up with, “crEATivity kits,” include all the tools and supplies needed for an art project, step-by-step directions, information on the project’s style of artwork, and an applesauce snack.
Organizers also had to figure out how to distribute the kits. That’s when the notion of simultaneously feeding the body and the artistic soul led them to the Lakeshore Food Club.
The Lakeshore Food Club is a non-profit grocery store offering a wide range of food options for low income families. Using points based on household size, members select food as often or as seldom as they choose during their 30-day membership.
The center also identified the Ludington branch of the Mason County District Library as another distribution point.
The kits were first distributed through these pickup locations in April 2021.
A few days before each month’s distribution, a small group of volunteers gather at the arts center to pack 200 kits. The kits are then distributed among the food club, library, and 20 are kept for pickup at the art center.
Although the organizers originally envisioned that children would be the primary users for the kits, Skinner said many senior citizens and other adults have been enjoying them as well.
“There’s enough wiggle room in the projects where they’ll work for kids and adults,” Skinner said.
Most content for the kits comes from projects on the website Art Connects Kids, which is the work of the students at University of Michigan.
Projects in the crEATivity kits have ranged among watercolor paintings, drawings, flexible wire sculpture, colored pencil, paper mache, punch needle, abstract painting, and others.
In 2021, the crEATivity art kit project received a $3,000 People Fund grant. Skinner said the grant along with contributions from other organizations were key in getting the program off the ground.
Originally planned for a year, Skinner said the center has enough money remaining to continue the program for the foreseeable future.
He said the kits have been a source of joy for people during recent difficult times.
“Art is very beneficial to everybody,” Skinner said. “I tend to believe everyone is an artist in some sense. Creating things helps people escape.”