Culture Groups Get Crafty by Supplying Art Kits to DPS Students in Need

Families receiving Denver Public Schools PowerSacks will now receive Art Kits.
Families receiving Denver Public Schools PowerSacks will now receive Art Kits. Frank Montanez
Every week since Denver Public Schools shut down its buildings, Food for Thought, a nonprofit addressing childhood hunger in the city, has delivered 7,000 PowerSacks to more than 24 DPS Grab and Go sites, providing students and their families with enough non-perishable food for a family of four for two days.  Now, through a new collaboration led by CherryArts, the group behind the Cherry Creek Arts Festival, those sacks will also include Art Kits.

"As schools closed and CherryArts’ mobile arts education outreach came to a halt, we started to consider how we could continue to serve," explains Cherry Arts President and CEO Tara Brickell. Before the stay-at-home order went into effect, the organization created and distributed a hundred art kits to Colfax Elementary School families.

After the lockdown, the nonprofit feared that it would have to quit that project, but its leaders soon realized that distributing school supplies was considered an essential service. So the group partnered with Food for Thought on a new goal: to supply all 7,000 students relying on the PowerSack program with material for art projects.

"We have been filling the Art Kits with everything from watercolors and sketch pads to popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners," says Brickell. "Each batch of 500 that we complete has been filled with a different set of project supplies that correspond with the accompanying Art Kit lesson plan and online tutorials."

Realizing the magnitude of the task, CherryArts started reaching out to other arts groups, institutions and foundations, and soon Understudy, La Napoule Art Foundation and the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver signed on to help.

CherryArts has created an online site called At Home With Art, where students can use virtual lesson plans and follow tutorial videos explaining what they can do with their supplies. In the upcoming weeks, the site will begin to include lessons from professional artists.

The group is currently seeking donations of new or gently used art supplies. If you have items to give, reach out to [email protected]. You can also make a monetary donation to support the Art Kit program at the CherryArts website.

"As we all move to virtual content, I think we’re really trying to figure out how to create genuine connection during these challenging times," explains Brickell. "The simple act of creating can bring you to the present moment, and for these students to be able to make art during the pandemic can perhaps offer a bit of relief and maybe some hope."
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Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris