Serena Sanborn’s after school art club looked different this week. Instead of teaching students from the art studios in Waterville, she conducted the class via videostream from her home.

This is part of a new initiative by Waterville Creates!, a nonprofit arts organization, to provide residents with access to art during the coronavirus pandemic.

Sisters Phoebe Sanborn, left, and Serena Sanborn, right, and Nate Towne, bottom, all with Waterville Creates!, become part of their art they created with canned goods in the fall. Members of the arts organization, including Colby College collaborators and Railroad Square have come up with ways to share art programs on the internet during the pandemic. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

“Our team met virtually to brainstorm how we, as a nonprofit arts organization, could continue to fulfill our mission when we couldn’t hold in-person events,” said Nathan Towne, marketing director for Waterville Creates! “Knowing that our patrons and other art lovers would be spending more time at home with schools closing, we decided to take our popular after-school art programs online for free.”

The Waterville Board of Education on Monday joined other districts in central Maine in announcing schools will be closed until at least April 27.

On Thursday Sanborn, the education and outreach coordinator for Waterville Creates!, took the after-school art club for kids online for the first time during the pandemic and taught viewers how to draw their pets.

“After doing the first one we got a lot of response,” Sanborn said during a phone call on Saturday. “The response was so great that we decided to do art club for all on Tuesdays. That will have things that are a little more advanced with a little more instruction. … People need a distraction from feeling afraid or separated right now. It was really immediate. Our whole staff started thinking how to make it free and accessible for all. All you need is a pencil, paper and the internet.”

The online art club will teach viewers how to draw things in their own homes such as the landscape of their backyards or a still life from their kitchens. The club show will be streamed on Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning at 3 p.m.

Waterville Creates! also added the “Guest Artist Drop-In” livestream which showcases local artists creating work. The program begins at 1 p.m. on Fridays.

The first artist in the program was Tamsen Warner, executive director of the Waterville Opera House who is also a ceramicist. Warner showed off her wheel throwing skills to viewers at home.

“People can’t do that at home, but at least they can watch someone create something,” Sanborn said. “Our thought is that watching someone create something is relaxing and meditative.” 

Friday Russ Cox, a Pittsfield based illustrator for children’s books, will be featured.

In addition to the online programming, Waterville Creates! and staff from Colby College are working to put together at-home art kits to hand out during meal pickups at the Alfond Youth & Community Center in Waterville.

“We’re starting with 100 free art kits that have colored pencils, regular pencils, a sharpener and paper,” Sanborn said. “In the kits there will be art prompts on how to do things like ‘draw an object in your house.'” 

Sanborn said the team working to create the art kits include Towne; Lisa Wheeler, an art teacher at the Albert Hall School; Kristin Bergquist, Mirken curator of education and engagement for the Colby Museum of Art; and Sheri LaVerdiere, assistant for museum visits for the Colby Museum of Art.

“I think both Nate and I were thinking about if we could do a kit for kids, especially for kids who don’t have anything,” Sanborn said. “We talked to Lisa Wheeler, and she said a lot of these kids don’t have anything so we thought we would provide something for those kids to keep them creating during this time.” 

Sanborn said they are creating the art kits free of charge right now, but might encourage donations in the future.

The art kits will be handed out during meal pickup hours from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. The exact date the kits will start being handed out is still unconfirmed.

The Colby Museum of Art has also rolled out an at-home art instruction program.

Sanborn said partners of Waterville Creates! are also working hard to alter programs to accommodate patrons during this time.

“The Waterville Opera House and Maine Film Center (Railroad Square and MIFF) are working hard to reschedule events,” Sanborn said in an email. “We are trying to figure out how to do things with them virtually, too. They had a streaming download through Railroad Square on Thursday for the movie Fantastic Fungi! with a live Q and A with the director and a mycologist.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.