On Tuesday, April 28th, over 1,000 kindergarten, first, and second graders from all 8 Watauga County Elementary Schools received a wonderful surprise.
Thanks to Blowing Rock Art & History Museum (BRAHM) and the generosity of the Kennedy-Herterich Foundation, students received a free art supply kit during their public school materials pick-up. Each kit contained washable markers, washable tempera cake paints, brushes, heavyweight drawing paper, and a packet of drawing and painting inspiration created by BRAHM’s Education Center Director, Jennifer Garonzik.
Garonzik envisioned this project last month when speaking to other art teachers struggling to assign creative projects to their now remote-learning students, many of whom had little more than a pencil and scrap paper at home while the state’s Shelter in Place Order is in effect. “Having a creative outlet and stimulating activities available to children is never more important than during this time of rapid change and uncertainty for many,” said Garonzik.
Pulling off such an accomplishment was a team effort. Garonzik reached out to art teachers in the county and worked with Meredith Jones at the Watauga County Schools central office to gather population numbers and coordinate distribution. Garonzik and BRAHM Executive Director Lee Carol Giduz approached the Kennedy-Herterich Foundation as a potential sponsor for this project, knowing the foundation’s generous history of support for area youth art outreach.
“I am blown away by the continued support and dedication of Ms. Herterich and the foundation. They have sponsored field trips for underserved youth here at BRAHM in the past. And now serving every household for this age group in our county in this manner shows Ms. Herterich’s giving nature and determination for providing creative art opportunities for all children.” Said Garonzik. “In BRAHM’s typical outreach, we work with groups of 12-40 students at once. In the case of our long running Young at Art outreach with Blowing Rock School, I see over 200 students each month. The reach of this latest project is by far the largest we have undertaken.”
While the Kennedy-Herterich Foundation’s generous gift funded the cost of materials for this project, BRAHM members and endowments provided the support of the dedicated BRAHM team to assemble and distribute the kits to schools.
Choosing materials to fit within the budget and delivery timeline provided the biggest hurdle to making her idea come to life, but after a month of planning and assembling the kits, BRAHM staff delivered all 1,100 art kits to each school on Wednesday and Thursday of last week, allowing schools to organize materials in time for the school material pickup on Tuesday, April 28th.
Watauga Schools have held three materials pickups since schools closed in March. “Our goal is to provide safe art materials appropriate for the K-2 students of Watauga County. We hope students will be allowed to use these materials either independently, or with adult supervision. These materials might also be utilized for students to complete assignments by their regular school teachers, or for independent creative play” says Ms. Garonzik.
The kits also contain 5 art history inspired art prompts. Each prompt uses art history as a springboard for creative projects. Families can also find additional age-appropriate art lessons through the museum’s website which now features a variety of digital content related to the Arts and Appalachia for kids of all ages through their BRAHM at Home program <BlowingRockMuseum.org/AtHome.
Garonzik says, “I encourage entire families to get in on the creative time — this is a possibility to open dialogue and foster connection, as well as a great stress reliever. Forget your troubles for a few minutes by painting and drawing a fun rhino or polar bear alongside your child.” For youth specific content, families can visit BlowingRockMuseum.org/youth to find instructional videos, digital youth art galleries, artist inspiration, and more.
Families may share reactions to receiving the materials by tagging #BRAHMatHome and @BRmuseum on social media. Families are also encouraged to complete a Google Form <tinyurl.com/WataugaArtKit> to provide feedback on the materials and lesson ideas.
Follow BRAHM at Home on the web and through social media for weekly art lessons with “Ms. Jennifer.” Once in-person lessons are back in action, families are encouraged to register for Afternoon Art, Doodlebug Club, and other youth programs at BRAHM. Family membership at the $75 level entitles families to free youth programs year round.
If you would like to join BRAHM and donors like the Kennedy-Herterich Foundation in supporting art outreach for area youth, please consider a donation to BRAHM by giving through BlowingRockMuseum.org/support or calling 828-295-9099.