Putting together Waterville Creates! art kits for distribution are, from left, Lisa Wheeler from Albert Hall School, Serena Sanborn, Sheri LaVerdiere from Colby Museum of Art, and Kristin Bergquist from Colby Museum of Art. Photo submitted by Waterville Creates!

In an effort to provide people with access to art during the coronavirus pandemic, Waterville Creates! has launched a new program that will distribute take-home art kits to children and families in the Waterville area.

Beginning next week, the nonprofit arts organization will distribute art kits containing free art supplies and instructions .

An art kit put together by Waterville Creates! for distribution at the Alfond Youth Center on May 13 and Downtown Waterville Farmers Market on May 14. Photo submitted by Serena Sanborn

The idea for the Art Kits for All program came after the organization had to cease in-person instruction in March and pursue alternative ways of operating.

“Closing our doors during the COVID-19 pandemic was heartbreaking to us,” said Shannon Haines, president and chief executive officer of Waterville Creates!. “We realize how many local families and community members rely on our art programs, events and scholarships to live a fulfilling and balanced life.”

On March 28, the organization unveiled a series of online programs that include art lessons that are streamed on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and a “Guest Artist Drop-In” livestream Fridays which showcases local artists creating work.

While the organization was developing the online programs, they were also developing the first batch of art kits, according to Serena Sanborn, education and outreach coordinator for Waterville Creates!.

On April 8, the organization distributed 100 art kits containing pencils, colored pencils, a pencil sharpener and paper from its own art studios.

“People loved them and we decided to keep it going,” Sanborn said in an email. “We found that families wanted more than one, and we had such limited supplies. We could have given away 200 that day.”

The next batch of art kits will be distributed Wednesday, May 13, at the Alfond Youth and Community Center from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Thursday, May 14,  at the Waterville Farmers Market from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

The contents of the kits will vary, according to Sanborn.

“We are doing different projects so it depends on the project. This week we are doing nature journals with a little book, rubbing crayons, pencils and a page full of ideas and prompts,” Sanborn said in an email. “Next we have Zoetropes — an animation kit and Model Magic kits.”

The program is a collaborative effort between Waterville Creates! and the Colby Museum of Art, the Kennebec Montessori School, Waterville Public Schools and the Family Violence Project. These organizations have provided volunteers and supplies for the kits, according to a news release. 

The kits have been assembled at the Colby Museum of Art by volunteers who wear masks and gloves during assembly. To remove the risk of possible contamination, all of the materials are disinfected and the kits are prepared and sealed a week prior to distribution.

The art kits cost $10 each to create and Waterville Creates! is looking for donations to continue the program into the summer.

“We plan to have about 100 of each kind of kit,” Sanborn said. “Our goal is to give away 600 in May and June combined, but we might do more if we find we have enough donations.”

Upcoming distribution dates and information on how to donate can be found at WatervilleCreates.org.

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