Canvas for (Virtual) Creativity

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At some point during our school age life, many of us proudly shared a completed creative project with our families. Sometimes our masterpieces adorned the refrigerator, hallway wall, or mom or dad’s desk at work. Those memorable accomplishments and experiences are made possible by imaginative muses, otherwise known as art teachers. 

Faced with new challenges entering the 2020 school year, United Inner City Services (UICS) arts educators and staff have adapted to share fresh opportunities to create at school and home

Art and creativity transcend our classrooms and studio walls at UICS, which is incredibly valuable as many students have transitioned to virtual learning this year. 

“At the beginning of the pandemic, we thought it would be helpful to have art and classroom activities online,” explained Merrill Hunt, UICS-St. Mark Center Training and Curriculum Manager. “Nearly 20% of our students are participating in virtual and hybrid in-classroom/at-home learning, and we wanted to ensure what we were offering in the classrooms was available at home too.”

All UICS teachers have created Google classrooms (a secure online website link specific to each educator) to directly correspond with lessons delivered on-site. Parents are invited to their child’s Google classroom to check in, engage in school activities, and access resources. But, for certain hands-on classes like art, UICS teachers have been incredibly innovative as they’ve searched for even more ingenious ways to help students engage virtually.

“I wanted to give our parents and students an opportunity to access the same art projects at home that we are doing at school,” said Brianne (Bri) Pegg, UICS-St. Mark Center Arts Coordinator. “It’s important to me to give parents digestible tools, so they feel comfortable doing art at home with their kids.”

Bri’s Google site showcases an incredible variety of art projects students can do at home. The page is segmented by age and includes helpful video links and tips for parents to support UICS’ Creative Curriculum. Many resources also include projects made from found objects at home, making art experiences more accessible and imaginative. 


UICS-Metro Center Arts Coordinator, Julia Mandl, is also engaging her art students virtually. “I want students to enjoy art and creating it, even if they aren’t physically with us.” 

Julia has made her Youtube channel, Art with Ms. Mandl available to not only UICS students and families, but anyone interested in discovering new ways to make art at home. In these videos, Julia leads a wide range of art projects using many different mediums and often features local artists to share and teach some of their favorite techniques and styles. 

Bri and Julia have also established virtual art galleries for UICS artists to upload and share their masterpieces digitally. Bri explained, “Students see their art on the walls in the hallways at school, and this is a way for students at home to display what they’ve been doing at home and feel proud about their work.”

Additionally, both Arts Coordinators take turns leading Stay, Play, & Learn, a weekly art and play engagement opportunity for parents and children to experience the joy of creativity together. In the midst of the pandemic, this event has evolved to Stay (Zoom), Play, & Learn so students and families at home can participate.   

“It also turned out to be a great project for our volunteer groups to engage with us off-site!” Julia added. UICS community partner and advocate, Church of the Resurrection, enlisted to help prepare these packages. Pastor Patrick McLaughlin leads volunteer opportunities for Church of the Resurrection and sought to engage with UICS through service that could be done safely off-site. Collage materials like pom poms, pipe cleaners, sequins, paper, buttons, and glue sticks were generously supplied and packaged by Pastor Patrick and his volunteer group.

Kansas City Young Matrons also coordinated an art supply drive to ensure our centers were bountifully equipped with materials. This is the second year that this group of citizen leaders have contributed to our work.

Families are invited to retrieve the art kits and supplies in addition to other resources every week through our “Curbside Pick Up” program.

UICS is humbled to be the beneficiary of generous community support that promotes inclusion of the arts for our little learners, wherever they are learning. 

Art connects universally and encourages expression, which is more meaningful now than ever. UICS teachers, staff, and volunteers continue to engage imagination, find inspiration, and facilitate discovery for our students and families during a time of great uncertainty and transition. 

Though we might be distant, we are United.