By Mary Beth Sallee
The pandemic has no doubt brought stress and anxiety to everyone, including children. While social distancing guidelines have caused many events and programs to cancel, Sims Studio and Art Shop in Horse Cave has worked to provide a creative outlet for the youth of Hart County.
Jesse and Jennifer Sims hosted the Arts for All Kentucky Side by Side program at their studio. This is an art program designed to offer a creative outlet for students, reinforce positive self-image, and highlight the importance of arts education in the development of children and youth with disabilities.
The program further provides a series of classes led by approved teaching artists in studio art, such as the Sims. Students are also partnered with a professional artist from their community and together create a collaborative work of art.
This is the second year that the Sims have provided the Side by Side program for children in the community. However, adjustments were made this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic health and safety guidelines.
“Due to restrictions, we had to deliver instruction to the majority of the students using Google Meet,” Jennifer said. “I also created videos that would help the students go step-by-step through the project in case they weren’t available and placed the tutorial videos on my YouTube channel.”
According to Jennifer, each student created a mixed media self-portrait. The visual artist then created the background for the student’s work based on an interest questionnaire that the students completed to assist in creating the final collaborative work of art.
“We have ten students that met virtually,” Jennifer said. “They picked up art kits prior to the week the sessions began…Then I had two students that met at the shop with proper COVID requirements of everyone wearing a mask, and the students were spaced six-feet apart.”
Students of the program have created scratch art, mixed media portraits and cupcakes, and printmaking and drawing with watercolor. All supplies were provide in the art kits, and students were allowed to keep their kits at the end of their sessions.
Jennifer said that it is very important to continue to provide a creative outlet for children, especially during such chaotic times.
“Students need the outlet to create artwork that lets them express themselves,” Jennifer stated. “For many students last week, I heard some really reinforcing statements on how they enjoyed the sessions and hate that they are over. Also, students saying how much they enjoyed projects are a reinforcing thing for me as the instructor.”
Instead of having an in-person reception and gallery viewing at the Thomas House like that in 2019, this year’s gallery will be online. The virtual gallery can be viewed on June 27 on the Sims Studio and Art Shop Facebook page and the Arts for All Facebook page. A YouTube video will also be created showcasing the students’ works of art.