Connecting Through Virtual Art Programs: The DNDA Art Challenge
Create, create, otherwise we are lost.
This statement is inspired by choreographer Pina Bausch’s most famous quote “Dance, dance, otherwise we are lost.” In an unprecedented time, this sentiment changes in meaning. To create during adversity is a means of persisting. To create now is a means of reflecting on the past so we can shape the future.
As the COVID-19 pandemic progressed into March, we asked ourselves on a daily basis – what is the future of our programming going to look like if this gets worse? The vast majority of our work, especially in the EcoArts Program, is centered around direct engagement with Delridge communities. Technology supports our programming by being an organizational tool, but in the past we have used it minimally for communicating with community members. Our work is personal, and face-to-face.
Thankfully, DNDA staff are adaptive and creative. Barely after we had transition to working from home, the EcoArts Program launched the DNDA Art Challenge. The Art Challenge began as a contribution to the DNDA HeartSpace – our centralized platform for virtual engagement. The HeartSpace features videos, blogs, and links to live-streamed videos all created by DNDA Art, Nature, and Neighborhood staff, DNDA Teaching Artists, and Youngstown artists and arts organizations. Beyond the Art Challenge, the DNDA EcoArts Program is also running Movement Mondays – a live-streamed dance class for all ages hosted at 12pm every Monday on our Instagram @delridgeneighborhoods. Needless to say, we at DNDA have been very busy creating content to give to our community.
After running the Art Challenge for five weeks, this program has become personal to me. Faced with adversity, the Art Challenge has allowed us in the EcoArts Program to rekindle connections with some and form new connections with other members of the Delridge neighborhoods through art.
DNDA Art Challenge Beginnings: Instagram
When we first began the Art Challenge, we figured the virtual platform that would allow us to reach the most people in a short amount of time was Instagram. So on March 28th, 2020, we announced the program and made our first call for community art submissions. This public program will continue until the end of May 2020, so if you are reading this and are itching to create something, you can find new prompts announced every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on DNDA’s Instagram @delridgeneighborhoods. Participating is easy:
- Interpret the art prompt. There are no wrong answers.
- Create using any materials or mediums.
- Share your work with us! You can can message pictures of your work directly to us on Instagram or Facebook Messenger or at email@example.com. Or if you have a public account on Instagram, you can make a post and tag us @delridgeneighborhoods and use #dndaheartspace.
So far, we have been overjoyed to receive many submissions from people connected to DNDA in some way, shape, or form. In particular, I’d like to highlight the work of one of our cherished Teaching Artists, Jules Hepp (see images below). Despite being busy providing environmental education resources to youth, Jules made time to share their art with the world. You can find more of their work on Instagram @jmheppart.
Expanding the Program to Engage Delridge Youth
Initially, we thought that using Instagram would help us connect with youth in the communities we serve. However, after about a week of running the program, we realized that we needed a different approach and shifted gears. Returning to old-school methods of distributing fliers (in a sanitary manner, of course), we left information on every doorstep in High Point and at Croft Place Townhomes.
And it worked.
Now five weeks into the program and 15 art prompts later, we have received 41 art submissions from families in High Point and at Croft. These beautiful works of art come from many dedicated youth who are between 3 to 17 years old. Furthermore, for only those that live in these communities, we deliver a large personalized pizza to families who complete five art prompts. At this point, we have delivered 4 large pizzas to families.
Though we have connected with several families, access to technology and supplies continue to be a barrier to participating in virtual programs like the DNDA Art Challenge. We are in the process of trying to meet these needs, and just last Thursday we delivered packages of art supplies to all the families who are signed-up for the Art Challenge. Hopefully this is just the beginning of helping families adapt to change.
Teacher Molly Duttry (pictured right) and Frank (left) packaging art supplies for High Point and Croft families. Each package includes crayons, colored paper, pipe cleaners, and glue sticks.
Boundless Creativity: The Work of Our Young Artists
It has been my joy to be sent several works of art throughout my days of social distancing. I have been constantly inspired by these young creatives and what they dream up. Now, I hope to spread some of this joy to you by sharing some of their creations.
Earth Day: Create from natural materials in your backyard
On Earth Day, we wanted to get families outside to experience a direct connection with the natural world. Furthermore, we wanted to teach a land ethic that we practice constantly in the EcoArts Program – using natural materials for art-making without disturbing the environment. Therefore, our prompt for Earth Day was “Create from natural materials in your backyard.” The kids embraced this challenge wholeheartedly, and created everything from homes for creatures to mystical protectors of the Earth to floral arrangements. See the gallery below for some of their creations:
Every Friday, we let the kids express themselves in any way that they wish to. This means that we give them an “open” prompt, with the only rule being that they must include a specific color in their creations for that day. Here are some of their interpretations:
Freestyle with PINK
Freestyle with TEAL
Environmental Prompts: Paint your favorite landscape
Many of our prompts ask the kids to think about their lived experiences in nature. In this prompt, “Paint your favorite landscape,” the kids depicted landscapes – or seascapes – that make them happy. A bay with boats and palm trees on the beach, snow-tipped mountains, and the ocean shore…these were a few of our young artists’ favorite places on Earth.
Prompts for Sparking Creativity: Invent your own creature
“This is Sallace. She’s related to a light fury which is kind of like an everything dragon. She can do everything, breathe fire, ice and anything in between. She can go anywhere: Swim in water, walk on land by turning her flippers into feet, and fly through the air. Her most powerful ability is to sing like a siren. When she sings she releases an everything ball of everything.”
Above all, we hope that our Art Challenge is encouraging kids to practice creativity. When it comes to interpreting our prompts, there are worlds of possibilities. Everything that can be imagined, can be created on just a piece of paper with some art supplies.
One of our most recent prompts, “Invent your own creature,” resulted in a lively set of characters, each rooted in our world but distinctly out of this world (see gallery below). Seeing kids so full of ideas gives me hope, for their creations enrich our world unlike anything else. I believe we have a lot to learn from them about using our imaginations to make a difference.
I am filled with gratitude to be a part of this project, and am excited to see what the kids dream up next.
This program was funded by the City of Seattle Office of Arts and Culture and 4Culture.