In 2020, we made our selections for the micro-grant winners just as the COVID-19 pandemic closed all schools and community programs. In recognition of these difficult circumstances, we enabled each teaching artist to define how they could use the micro-grant funds to strengthen their teaching artist practice during the shutdown (e.g. developing curriculum, delivering remote programs, creating a website) and sent the grants immediately. Check out how one of the recipients, Karen Singer, is adjusting their art practice during the pandemic.

While you originally applied to the Bartol Foundation Teaching Artist Micro-Grant for a specific project, we realized this project likely was postponed or perhaps changed altogether.  How are you adapting your project or using this grant differently to support your teaching artist practice?

My original plan was to do a project in collaboration with Kelly Green, a local organization connected with the Kelly School, that has a long history of gardening and greening projects that involve Kelly School students, parents and faculty as well as community residents. Our plan was to do a ceramic house number workshop that would culminate in a series of house number plaques installed throughout the neighborhood that would help people identify each house, clarify the connection to Kelly Green and foster community engagement through a collaborative art activity.

Because of the pandemic, this activity is not happening, although the interest in making it happen is still there. I am still engaged in discussions with the Kelly Green folks about how this might happen or how we might expand upon it.

In the meantime, I have launched something I am calling “Ceramics To Go”, a ceramics kit that has been provided to individuals and families in the neighborhood to enable them to do ceramic work at home with my guidance. For example, I have worked with a 10 and 11 year old who are making furniture for their “fairy house”, and a 4 year old who made beads and plaques with her mom. I am also continuing work with 2 adult students, one of whom has tried “sculpting in plein air”, a technique I have taught that involves people working outside on a wet clay slab, sculpting a ceramic tile directly from what they observe.

Has the quarantine resulted opportunities to take your practice online in any way?  If so, tell us about it.

I have been posting photos about my own creative work on social media, and engaging directly with the people who comment. We have also featured the “Ceramics to Go” on our enewsletter, which resulted in expanded interest. I have done a little Zoom teaching with one workshop, and may be doing more.

When do you know your work is making a difference?

Watching the strides the children make in their artwork is always rewarding. We love seeing how proud they are of their accomplishments and how these accomplishments create a bond between the children and their families. 

There is also value in sharing challenges.  If you are comfortable doing this, what are some of the challenges that you are dealing with? Short-term? Long-term? Who knows?

Challenges – there are lots of them, including much more alone time, loss of income, learning a lot about Zoom and other video platforms. I think the big challenge is figuring out what matters most to each of us, and how we arrange our life to incorporate what matters, even in the face of big challenges. I think that artists are uniquely qualified to help all of us look at this. I believe that creativity and appreciation for it are at the forefront of our ability to move forward, maintain a sense of hope and possibility, and make new solutions possible.

Have you found moments of creativity or grace in the past few months?

I am making a lot more artwork with no particular client in mind. This is different for me, because I am usually working on multiple commissions projects. I am doing both sculpting and painting in plein air, and loving it. It feels wonderful to hear the birds, watch the changes in the gardens and arboreta I am working in and to see the amazing feedback this work is getting from people who see it on line.

And always our favorite question.  Best. (Quarantine) Snack. Ever.

Making lots of fruit and nut smoothies – a great snack to bring along on a plein air trip!

Part of a continuing series featuring our 2020 Bartol Micro-Grantees.

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