When Crossing Arts Alliance in Brainerd closed its doors in March in response to Minnesota's stay-at-home order, the staff shifted their kids’ arts education programming online.
But Lisa Jordan, the group's executive and artistic director, said they wanted to do something else, something fun to lift themselves “up and out of what seemed like a very uncertain place. We thought, 'How can we inspire our community right now?’ ”
The staff looked at what they had: art supplies. Some purchased, some donated. Jordan imagined what it would be like to be a student, suddenly cut off from in-person art class and, in some cases, without art supplies at home.
“It would be really fun for me if someone gave me a random bag of things and encouraged me to create with it," she said.
So the Crossing Arts Alliance staff assembled 200 "creativity kits."
Each paper bag full of supplies was illustrated by a local artist. Inside, they contained a coloring page with crayons and supplies for an art project. That project might be clay, items for a mosaic, or “seashells, pompoms, googly eyes, you name it: just a random bag of inspiration,” Jordan said.
On the first Saturday in April, community volunteers distributed free lunches to children — local schools still provide weekday lunches to students in need — and children under 14 also received a free creativity kit to feed their imaginations. All the bags were distributed.
“We already have pictures from some of the kids who have created art with the materials that were in the bags, and seeing their little smiling faces pays for the entire cost of putting them together, so it’s been really gratifying,” Jordan said.
Since then, the project has taken on a life of its own. Material and financial donations have come in to support the project, and Crossing Arts Alliance plans to distribute another round of creativity kits on Saturday.
They’re also expanding. The Mid-Minnesota Women's Center in Brainerd will soon receive three dozen Creativity Kits to have on hand, and a spokesperson says they will be much appreciated.
“I believe this is going to be an ongoing part of our programming going forward,” Jordan said.
From acts of kindness and sweet gestures to inspirational signs, these are some of the ways Minnesotans are lifting one another during the coronavirus pandemic.
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