Fantasy Landscape Gouache Painting @ Common Fields

Let’s make some fantasy landscape paintings in gouache at Common Fields!

This Fall, we’ll make dazzling, colorful and fantastical landscapes at Common Fields. Perfect for beginners, small groups, teens and adults, this workshop includes everything you need to start making fantasy landscapes with gouache!

Come join us on Monday, November 7, 2022 at 6:00 pm
at Common Fields in downtown Corvallis

In this 2-hour workshop, we’ll practice with gouache, a water-soluble paint, to create illustrative landscapes to inspire stories, and fantasy. References, paint, paper and equipment are all included.

No painting or drawing experience needed for this laid back art making night!

Food and bevergaes are available at the locallyowned food carts at Common Fields.

This painting workshop is open to beginners and experienced painters, teens and adults. Registration is $25 per person
All materials provided and included.

Fantasy Landscape Painting with Gouache at Common Fields Registration

Gouache Class at OCCC Fall 2022

Create whimsical illustrations and paintings with gouache, a water-based medium that layers like acrylic and dries with a matte finish. Perfect for children’s illustrations, cards, and small paintings, this medium can bring to life all kinds of wondrous imaginings. Beginner-friendly class with live instruction on materials and techniques. Students can expect to end the class with at least 2 finished paintings. Materials list provided; materials are available from instructor (includes material fee).

Materials list provided; materials available from instructor (includes material fee)

Class Schedule:

October 20 – November 10 (4 weeks)
Thursdays
10:00 – 11:30 am

Registration fee: $xx
Materials fee: $25
Register at Oregon Coast Community College (coming soon)

Bespoke Bookbinding II at OCCC Fall 2022

More bookbinding for beginners! We’ll practice 4 more bookbinding techniques including binding with old book covers, star books, long stitch, and decorative spines bookbinding. No previous experience needed (no need to have taken Bespoke Bookbinding I).


Class Schedule and Registration:

October 20 – November 10
Thursdays, 1:00 – 2:30 pm

Register at Orgon Coast Community College


Materials

Special materials and equipment are required for this class (click to see materials list).

Bespoke Bookbinding at OCCC Fall 2022

Bookbinding for beginners: In this class we’ll practice 4 different bookbinding methods from around the world to create our own unique sketchbooks and journals. Each class will include step-by-step instructions for each method, and live demonstration by the instructor. Create a travel watercolor journal, a sketchbook with pockets, a personalized diary, plus gorgeous decorative binding. 

Plus, extra tips and instructions for single-page books and zines on the exclusive class website.

Special materials and equipment are required for this class.
See class info and materials sheet for supplies and links.

Class Schedule

September 22 – October 13 (4 weeks)
Thursdays
1:00 – 2:30 pm

Register at Oregon Coast Community College

Ink Illustrations at LBCC Fall 2022

Create illustrations for books, comics, cards and fine arts with inking techniques to express drama. Practice sketching, linework, stippling, shading and scumbling with one or more pens to create effects of depth and movement. This class is perfect for beginners who want to develop illustration skills or combine ink illustrations with other media like watercolor for journals.

September 27 – November 15, 2022 (8 weeks)

Register at Linn-Benton Community College

Already registered? Click here to access the student page (password protected)

Embroidered Pride Patches

Tutorial Video + a brief history of crafting in social justice movements and resistance to oppression.

A Tangled History of Radical Craft

Often there’s one way to define Art that most folks can agree with: visual art, movement, poetry, music, installation, experience, culinary, film… All are ways for an artist to express their own perspectives, feelings or a statement and that others can connect to or perhaps create their own understanding by experiencing. Art is the communication between humans that works on our thoughts, emotions and physical reactions to connect us through creative means.

But what about craft? Can craft express the same way as Art? What’s the difference between craft and Art to begin with?

For Pride month this year, I made an art kit for a local youth library with celebratory embroidery and cross stitch crafts. It was so fun to create patterns and make little pride patches, plus coloring stickers, which are a big thing around here! I also did some research into the history of craft, starting from the concept of “craftivism” and I quickly learned that crafting has a long woven history with political messaging, resistance, resilience and social protest.

What is craft, and how is it different from Art?

Craft and Art are two sides of an art historical debate that has waged for at least the past 150 years, and probably much longer. Both Art and craft are creative practices in special skills that may imply talent and require dedicated practice to develop. The distinction is arguable, really, and is traditionally drawn along lines of use. Works of craft are made with creativity, but with utility— how the crafted object will be used– at the primary center of the object’s function. Works of Fine Arts are made with creativity, asethetics and message as the primary focus of the work. Fine Arts are things like painting, sculpture, collage, music, dance, poetry, culinary arts and we may find ourselves or our art history professors asking us “What is the artist trying to say with this work of art?” We rarely, if ever, aks the question of intent with crafts– things like woodworking, fiber arts, architecture, and foods like baking or beer; the intent of crafted objects seems obvious: to be used or consumed.

This distinction of use-focused v. aesthetics-focus has historically implied hierarchy, generally with the Fine Arts being more prestigious and important than craft. The Fine Arts are also historically much more white male-dominated and public – meant to be SEEN and experienced by the masses, whereas crafts have been thought of as feminine and including works that don’t require as much skill and are therefore underdeveloped, as well as domestic and personal.

Decorative design by William Morris

In the late 19th Century, in response to industrialization and mechanization of production, the Arts and Crafts movement in the United States and Europe, was lead by artists such as William Morris and John Ruskin, who sought to elevate the practice of designing and creating by hand to the level of Fine Arts. Ruskin and Morris idealized careful craftsmanship and high skill in the making of commonly used objects. The Arts and Crafts movement was overall a multifaceted ideological comment and in some cases rejection of industrialization, and in others a condemnation not of the use of machines, but rather the treatment of workers in factories to mass produce objects for use and disposal. The Arts and Crafts movement produced amazing works and academic study of architecture, furniture, and decorative arts like embroidery, but ultimately failed to “elevate” craft to the level of Fine Arts. Because Arts and crafts are different  in important ways.

The British art historian Rozsika Parker writes about the shared history of embroidery and femininity in her book, The Subversive Stitch. In it, she describes works of craft as personal expressions. As crafts like fiber arts were largely handled by women starting in the Victorian era, they became expressions of women’s daily lives in that context: caring for families and domestic concerns. Women were largely excluded from political and public action and so their works were also excluded from commentary on social systems at large, unlike the male-dominated Fine Arts. And it’s because of this exclusion and distinction that craft has a valuable role in subversion and resistance of those systems. Groups like the British Suffragists and the youth counterculture of the 1960’s both used craft, particularly embroidery to make statements against the hegemonic patriarchal systems they struggled against.  “[E]mbroidery showed that the personal was the political – that personal and domestic life is as much the product of the institutions and ideologies of our society as is public life.” (Parker, 205)

Suffragist embroidered banner.

Parker’s book was published in the mid-1980’s, and she was looking back on the new Women’s Lib movement of the 1970’s, focusing specifically on the experiences of white heteronormative women. Beyond the scope of Parker’s research, crafting has been intricately woven with movements of resistance throughout history. 

In the United States, handwork crafts and specifically fiber arts is particularly entangled with slavery, as often enslaved people were highly valued if they had skills in fiber arts, passed down through generations spanning back to communities in Africa. Story quilts with geometrical patterns originated with enslaved people, preserving cultural memory and legacy. White slave owners appropriated quilting practices, which became symbols of white southern domesticity.

Coded quilt made by Sharon Tindall

Despite this, quilting was used as a tool of resistance against the oppression of slavery to mark safe houses on the Underground railroad, offering beacons of freedom to enslaved people. Ruth Terry, in a 2019 article on Medium, connects research in neuroscience that suggests needlework supports mental health resiliency in coping with trauma, and that enslaved women who would knit and sew together may have experienced these benefits in the midst of generations of slavery and abuse.

A photo of the incredible Sojourner Truth shows her sitting serenely with her knitting laying across her hands, a symbol of skill, patience and calculated precision, the same which she used to defy the atrocious history of slavery in the United States and liberate enslaved people.

Quilting continued its legacy of memory and preservation in the face of certain annihilation into the late 20th century.

In 1987, gay rights activist Cleve Jones created the first panel of the AIDS Memorial quilt in memory of his friend, Marvin Feldman and in response to the devastating AIDS epidemic that had reached its height in the mid-1980’s. The quilt had been conceived as a way to remember the names of the lost, and public response was overwhelming as people throughout the US sent panels to the San Francisco workshop and donors supplied sewing equipment to construct the quilt. The quilt was first displayed in 1988, and has since grown with continued contributions. In 2019, the quilt weighed 54 tons with nearly 50,000 panels, each memorializing a beloved that had been affected by AIDS. 

In 2003, while a sociology student at Goldsmiths College in London, Betsy Greer created the term “Craftivist” as she wondered how she could help others with her knitting and fiber arts work.

It was just about connecting the dots that were already there, really, as I had studied conceptual art while doing my undergraduate degree in the late ‘90s and knew that what we make can tackle different issues. When I started knitting, I started looking at the ways in which I could help others with it, which at that time, meant making items and donating them to charities – something my grandmother had done for years, as she made hats for new infants at the local hospital she volunteered for. In that way, what we make has the chance to create changes in the fabric of our world, whether it’s knitting a tiny baby hat or doing something on a larger scale.

— Betsy Greer

In 2018, Greer curated an exhibit at the MODA in Atlanta, collecting works by artists and crafters on issues of social and political inequalities. 

These objects show how deeply the makers care about the various issues, by the time spent and ideas shared. It is my hope that, shown together, the works help people talk about difficult issues that the show may evoke or get people thinking about how they can express their feelings with what they can make with their hands.

— Betsy Greer, describing Making Change at MODA

The Yarn Mission, a community knitting collective, formed in 2014 following the murder of Mike Brown and the protest response in Ferguson, Missouri. The collective is focused on community organizing and providing safe spaces for Black protesters to be together, and support each other, all centered on shared knitting practices.

Knitting kept hands busy, calmed spirits, and created a positive point of connection between complete strangers brought together by the protests. Eventually, Ferguson protestors and residents became like family, working together to keep streets clean, get to cars safely, and ensure everyone had necessities like toilet paper.

–Taylor Payne, qtd in Ruth Terry’s article on Medium

This is so far only the beginnings of the research I’ve collected on crafting as expression and resistance. There’s so much more I want to share and write about, and I’ll continue crafting this post with more resources on craft as expression and craftivism in the following weeks throughout Pride month!

Links!

Coptic Stitch Bookbinding

Materials

  • 1 cardboard backed sketch paper pad, 9″ x 12″ (see prep notes above)
  • 3 sheets decorative scrapbook paper
  • Embroidery thread
  • Beeswax (recommended)
  • Awl
  • Washi tape
  • 50% glue/water solution
  • glue brush
  • Tapestry needle or curved bookbinder’s needle (recommended)
  • Ribbon or cordage for closure (optional)

Preparing the cover

You can make a cover for a sketchbook or journal from a basic sketchpad.

Step 1: Remove the binding from the paper pad. You can use a spiral bound pad or a glued pad. Hang on to everything, you can use all these pieces for the finished sketchbook.

Step 2: Use the cardboard back as the cover. Trim it down to the dimensions you want your final sketchbook to be. For this example, I’ll make a sketchbook that is 6″ wide by 9″ tall when closed. I trim down the cardboard back to two rectangles that are 6″x9″ (one for the front cover and one for the back).

Step 3: Next, trim down the sheets of paper. For a 6″x9″ book, I trim the paper to 12″x 9″. Fold four sheets of paper together to make signatures that are 6″x9″. Use a bonefolder to crease the signatures.

Step 4: To create a decorative cover with scrapbook paper, trim the paper to 2 pieces 1″ wider and 1″ longer than the final size of the book and 2 pieces the same dimensions as the final size of the book.

For this example, I cut two pieces of paper to 7″x10″ for the outer covers, and two pieces to 6″x9″ for the endpaper/ inner cover.


Steps for Coptic Stitch

As you bind the coptic stitch, it might be helpful to always keep in mind going around the previous stitch. That going around anchors each stitch, and holds each signature or cover to the rest of the text block. Here are step-by-step photos to follow along with (click images to open them and see the captions).

Jump to:

Binding the first cover and signature:

  1. Hold the cover and the first signature together, making sure the binding holes in each line up.
    • I like to hold the signature and cover with the spine edge toward me so I can flip the signature open easily as I bind.
  2. Insert the needle into one of the binding holes at the ends, starting on the inside of the signature.
  3. Leave a 5″ tail inside the signature to help tie off the thread later.
  4. Pull the thread to the outside of the signature.
  1. Pull the thread around to the outside of the cover and pass the needle through the hole from the outside.
  2. Bring the needle between the cover and the signature.
    • The signature and the cover are both threaded, but still really loose.
  3. Pass the needle around the thread that’s going between the signature and the cover.
  1. Pass the needle back between the signature and the cover, and back out again, around the thread.
  2. Insert the needle back into the binding hole it came out of.
  3. Pull the thread tight (but not too tight to rip the paper!)
  4. Use a knot to tie off the thread with the tail you left inside the signature.
  5. Move on to the next binding hole, passing the thread out from inside the signature.

All of the binding holes in this first signature and cover are worked the same as the first.

  1. Pull the thread through the signature to the outside of the book.
  2. Insert the needle into the binding hole on the outside of the cover to pull the thread into the cover, between the cover and the signature.
  3. Pass the thread around the thread connecting the signature to the cover, toward the left.
  4. Hook the needle under that thread from the right and pull tightly.
  5. Insert the needle back into the same binding hole on the signature.

Repeat these steps for all of the binding holes on the first signature/ cover

  1. For the last binding hols in the signature, begin the same as the other holes, inserting the needle in the hole from the inside of the signature.
  2. Thread through the outside of the cover and wrap the thread around the stitch you’ve made to attach the cover and signature.
  3. Instead of inserting the thread back into the same binding hole, insert the needle into the first binding hole of the next signature.

Binding the rest of the signatures

For binding the rest of the signatures, you’ll continue to go around the previous stitch to hold the signatures together.

  1. After inserting your needle into the first hole in the signature, go immediately to the next binding hole.
  2. Pull the htread through the binding hole and to the outside of the signature.
  3. Insert the needle under the previous signature stitch (in this case, the stitch holding the first signature to the cover).
  4. Insert the needle back into the same binding hole it came out of.

To keep stitches neat like little knitted V’s, pass your needle under the stitch starting from the side of the stitch closest to the end you started from and insert the needl back into the same binding hole.

Adding the Back Cover and finishing

  1. When you reach the last hole on the last signature, tie a knot to bind off the thread.
  2. Pass the needle with the thread through the binding hole to the outside of the text block.
  3. Pull tightly to keep the thread straight.
  1. Place the unbound cover over the text block, lining up the binding holes. Pass the needle through the cover from the outside.
  2. Bring the needle and thread out between the signature and the cover to the outside of the spine.
  3. Hook the needle under the thread holding the cover to the signature.
  4. Insert the needle back into the same hole in the signature it originally came out of.

Bind the nest of the cover in the same way.

  1. From the inside of the signature, insert the needle into the next hole and thread through the signature to the outside of the text block.
  2. Insert the needle into the next binding hole on the cover.
  3. Bring the thread between the cover and the signature to the outside of the binding.
  4. Pass the needle under the theread connecting the cover and the signature.
  5. Insert the needle back into the same binding hole.
  6. When you get to the last binding hole, tie off the thread and tuck away any extra ends!

Community Art for Relationship Building

I’m taking a look back at the community art projects I led over the past year with a couple of my favorite community organizations, and I’d like to share some of my tips for planning and developing art projects for community groups.

I approach community art projects differently from my classes in schools or with small groups, although the goals are similar: access to art practices and materials, engaging creative processes and building relationships.

In the case of community arts, I focus mainly on relationship building, letting the art project be a foundation for coming together, like a family meal or celebration, but with paint! For me, this shift in focus means that I want to keep the art projects open-ended and low-risk so that participants can engage with the projects based on their own comfort and skill level and focus on relating to the others around them, sharing ideas and creating space to be together, virtually or in-person. These projects are open for any level of engagement so that if someone wants to really dig into the project, they can be there right alongside another person who just wants to sit back and observe how others work with the materials. There’s actually room for anyone in these creative spaces.

With relationship building in mind, I focus on specific elements when selecting materials and methods for community art projects:

  • Accessible materials – something we have in abundance or can be easily collected and shared.
  • Open-ended instructions – I like a project that can be done in 3 – 5 steps, maximum, with the option to build on a practice or explore materials more.
  • Time-investment accessibility – these projects should be something someone can do in 2 minutes, but could also spend 20 minutes or 2 hours, if they wanted.

And, since this is a relationship-building experience, I try to consider basic needs as part of the art project: how will folks arrive to the project (transportation); will there be food/ resources available for them; are the spaces physically accessible, safe and comfortable; are the instructions and plans for the project accessible (consider spoken or reading language, understanding pictorial instructions).

In 2021, I had monthly art projects between a few different groups, coordinated with a couple of local nonprofit organizations. Here are a few standouts that were really fun and some of the planning that went into them:


Pour Painting at Jackson Street Youth Services
– Space for Learning Together

Community art projects are often great opportunities to experiment with new artistic practices for me. Since I focus on togetherness and exploration rather than mastery of materials or skills, I can try out practices that I don’t have a lot of experience with already and help set the tone for trying something new. This has been a way for me to learn new skills and lean into curiosity with art materials while also enjoying community building. Pour Painting/ flow acrylics was exactly that kind of experience for me. By practicing this with Jackson Street Youth Services– a local nonprofit serving youth in the community with safe shelter, case management, and community enrichment– I was able to join in with the community in experimenting and learning about an art form I’ve long been curious to try!

I did research ahead of time and tried out my own paintings before bringing materials to the group, but by the time we had our afternoon class in the summer of 2021, I had probably only made 1 or 2 paintings myself.

I knew enough to set up the project and make suggestions to the participants, but I was also able to keep back too many suggestions and allow participants to experiment freely.

Materials for Pour Painting

  • Flow acrylic paints in various colors
  • Flow acrylic medium
  • Small dixie cups
  • Stir sticks
  • Canvas panels of various sizes (8″x8″ and 4″x4″)
  • Painter’s tape
  • Silicone oil
  • Gloves
  • Aluminum baking trays and lids (like for a turkey)
  • Plastic table cover
  • Foam brushes

Set up & Tips

  • Individual spots: I set up each spot with a baking tray or lid, and showed participants how to turn dixie cups upside down to prop up their canvas panels (this allows the paint to flow down over the panel and into the tray)
  • Priming the canvas: The paint pours more evenly if there is a layer of wet paint on the canvas first, so I showed participants how to use the foam brushes to paint the canvases with a thick layer of paint before pouring.
  • Mixing flow medium with paint: I started out by showing participants how to mix the flow medium with the paints in the dixie cups, using a 3:1 ratio medium to paint (or whatever the instructions on the paints/ medium suggested).
  • Mixing colors: I had several different colors, including the typical blue, red, yellow, white and black. If participants wanted a color we didn’t have, I showed them how to mix paints together in the dixie cups BEFORE adding the pouring medium.
  • OR! Participants could mix up separate colors with pouring medium and then pour different colors+medium into one cup to create a marbled effect.

Group Painting at Corvallis Multicultural Literacy Center
– Opportunities to Grow in Relationship

The CMLC is a special organization to me, and one that I am quite honored to serve as a board member (at the time of this writing, I’m the new board chair). The work of this organization is about sharing educational and community resources for folks arriving to Corvallis from outside of the US. As a university town, we do tend to see a lot of international students and their families, but our organization also supports folks who are arriving to Corvallis for permanent residence and to pursue citizenship.

As I became a new board member this summer, I was in good company with other new members and staff at the organization. I wanted to get to know the people who were also invested in the organization and to also share my interests in community building through creativity by hosting a group paint session.

I set up this group paint event to focus on sharing creative space with one another, and for the opportunity to connect and talk with each other. For that reason, I specifically avoided a more standard paint with me tutorial, and instead brought a bunch of paints, canvases, brushes and music and while I made suggestions for how to approach the project, I didn’t lead the participants in creating anything specific. I simply guided us all in selecting color, brush, and putting paint onto the canvas.

This was a bit riskier for being the most loose-form project, and the lack of structure for some folks did create discomfort and confusion. But I’m not sure that I’d change any of that. In hindsight, I would prime the community more with discussion about staying present rather than focusing on what something “should” look like. This was an eye-opening experience for me and the community participants and I’m so grateful for the experience.

Materials for Group Painting

  • Four 6-ft tables
  • Chairs
  • Table covers
  • Wooden easels, offered to each participant
  • Acrylic paints in red, blue, yellow, black, white, gold, pink, teal, purple, plus modeling paste, glazing medium, and iridescent medium
  • Brushes of various sizes and shapes
  • Stretched and panel canvas of various sizes
  • Plastic tubs (like yogurt or hummus containers) for water
  • Pencils
  • Plastic-coated paper plates
  • Rags

Set up & Tips

  • The Round Table: All the tables were actually rectangular, but I set them up in ao open rectangle so folks could all see each other and chat. With our group of about 14 people, that meant three or so to a table. Outdoors and with space to move around and everyone vaccinated (and COVID infection rates low for the summer), we felt comfortable enough to take off our masks and see each other.
  • Setting a tone: Being outside in the shade was a nice touch, plus having music from a portable speaker that create atmosphere but didn’t compete with conversation helped create a celebratory tone, like a community meal, except with paint.
  • A variety of possibilities: I made some suggestions to pick colors that jumped out at folks as they surveyed their options, with the intent to encourage leaning into instinct and trusting themselves with the process. This was uncomfortable for some folks, who perhaps already felt vulnerable with art-making. As a community educator, I have the privilege to help people push their comforts and try new things, as well as help them to see possibilities in that trying.
  • Showcasing special materials: I did bring along modeling paste, glazing medium, and iridescent medium. Throughout the session, I introduced those separate mediums whenever someone asked about them or there had been some time for folks to settle into what they had begun to make. This meant announcing to the group that a material was available to them, and if they’d like to try it, there were a couple of ways I was familiar with the material, but they could try it out themselves. The sparkly stuff was, of course, the most popular.

Glass Painting at Jackson Street Youth Services
– Observing Each Other’s Skills and Experience

Part of my volunteering with Jackson Street this year was offering enrichment activities for the mentorship program. It was a real joy for me to spend time with the mentors and mentees in this program, and get to see their relationships come together.

This faux stained glass project turned out to be a really cool way for the groups to share their interests and skills with each other. The set up was classic: basic materials and process with enough possibility that participants could dig deep into the project.

The finished pieces came out looking so cool, and there were so many instances of genuine astonishment and joy at what each person could create with dark lines and glass paint (and it makes me want to add glass paint to my personal collection for sure!)

One of the challenges of hosting monthly art sessions is to come up with enough interesting and different subjects and practices for participants. As an illustrator, sure, I could spend all day everyday drawing, and that’s great if the goal of the art practice is to develop skill and style. But in community arts, that’s emphatically NOT the goal. Focusing on skill has the chance to create a split between who’s “good” at art and everyone else, which in the best of circumstances becomes one or two people making gorgeous art and everyone else watching. The worst outcome would be some of those spectators feel discouraged about trying the project. For community arts, I want to hold space for all participants with any skill level to share their exploration with each other. This is why unique and surprising projects can be perfect, like this faux stained glass project. Although there was linework and painting involved in the process, there was enough adaptation for someone who hasn’t practiced those artistic skills to still create something unique and for those who did have that practice, to share their skills with others. It also wasn’t something anyone at the table had tried before (I did one practice the previous night), and so there was zero mastery at the table, just as I like it 🙂

Materials for Faux Stained Glass

  • Glass sheets (like from thrift store picture frames)
  • Black fabric/ puff paint
  • Black Sharpie
  • Glass paint in various colors
  • Paint brushes
  • Paper
  • Optional (suggested): outline drawings of flowers, mandalas, shapes printed on paper

Process

  1. Draw a design on a piece of paper that can fit inside the area of the glass sheet, or select shapes and drawings that are printed on paper.
  2. Place the drawing/ print under the glass.
  3. Use the sharpie to trace the drawing or outline onto the glass.
  4. Use the puff paint to paint the lines of the drawing. Allow to dry completely.
  5. Use glass paint to paint inside and around the puff paint lines.

Set up & Tips

  • An example is worth 1000 questions: I prepped the evening before the class by creating an example at home. I also prepped some glass sheets with basic lotus and star designs with the puff paint so they would be dry and ready to paint for the class.
  • Note: the drying time of the puff paint was about 45 minutes, which for the 90 minute session means that participants were able to sketch out their designs and trace with puff paint and then color with the glass paint in the same session, which was cool.
  • Opportunities to work together: Some of the glass we had, which we took out of old picture frames from the thrift store, were various sizes, and one was quite large. For that one, the pair that used it created something together using this method, which was actually really neat to see and made a very unique keepsake for that pair.

Family Art Classes at Corvallis Multicultural Literacy Center
– Building Community

In an on-going collaboration with the CMLC, I’ve been hosting family classes for community members to create together at the center. As our global community continues to grapple with the effects of living during a pandemic, staying safe and building connection can feel like they are at odds.

Mediating between those choices are our obligations as community leaders and educators.

For these family art programs, I have been working alongside the CMLC program coordinator to plan for safety and health and maximum engagement. Good communication and planning has helped us successfully bring folks together.

Working closely with staff and volunteers for community projects has been essential. Together, we have covered as many possible questions and scenarios as we can to make sure we put safety and health above all. Our art projects have been a way to invite community members back into space with each other, while observing cautions for safety.

The first project we made together was decorating masks, both papier mache masks (which I had for a different project that was disrupted by COVID issues earlier in the year), and cloth face masks. This project brought us together into the center to share creative ideas and also practice healthfulness with sanitation and observing social distancing.

For our second project, we made posters and stickers, which is simple but honestly my favorite thing (yay stickers!). This second project was more focused on being together and exploring the space and opportunities the center offered.

Part of each of our activities has been to offer snacks to the young children, which is a matter of principle for me as a community educator. It’s another way for us to highlight the resources available at the CMLC. For our pandemic-friendly snacks, we offer a perusal of our packaged snack closet for kids to select from.

Materials for Mask Decorating

  • Papier mache masks
  • Cloth masks for adults and children
  • Fabric markers
  • Coloring markers (keep separate)
  • Glitter glue (the superior form of glitter)

Materials for Posters and Sticker making

  • Poster board paper
  • Sticker sheets (I used the kind for die cut machines)
  • Markers
  • Pencils
  • Glitter glue (love this stuff)

Set up & Tips

  • Room enough: A challenge at the CMLC is to make physical space for participants and observe social distancing. We manage this by separating participants into different rooms with the same supplies and a volunteer or staff in each room.
  • Keep it simple sweetie: These projects are so simple, they’re really drawing and coloring. And because of this, parents who attend the sessions with their children can chat and meet each other, which children can be imaginative and have freedom to create.

As a community arts educator, my work is focused on bringing folks together over creative projects, with an artistic perspective and methodology. I’ve learned from my experiences with organizations like The Center for Artistic Activism and Theatre of the Oppressed NYC about approaching opportunities for learning and conversation with an artistic framework, which is confronting challenges and taking on new opportunities to learn new skills and see from others’ perspectives. Looking back on the creative projects I’ve been a part of over the year, I’m struck by how naturally art and creativity became sources of community building, and our collaboration was affected by careful consideration of the particular challenges and desire for connection and growth our participants experienced.

In 2022, I’m looking forward to a new year of collaboration with these and other local and national organizations. Are you a community educator? How do you engage your community through arts and creativity? I’d love to hear about what other folks are doing to bring communities together!