Pablo Center’s ARTmobile Takes an Online Detour
children’s art program comes to the Web after COVID-driven closure
For years, the ARTmobile has been a colorful attraction for children and their parents across the Chippewa Valley, popping up at locations from the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library to Oakwood Mall to Phoenix Park. The roaming program – first operated by the Eau Claire Regional Arts Center and now by the Pablo Center at the Confluence – always drew a crowd of kids (and their grown-ups) to create hands-on, educational art projects.
At the moment, of course, crowds are a no-no, but the ARTmobile has continued to encourage creativity in the virtual world. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the staff at the Pablo Center had intended to create a stronger online presence for their art education programming. When COVID-19 hit and the statewide “Safer at Home” order led to the closure of the Pablo Center and nearly everything else this spring, the Pablo Center took the opportunity to take the ARTmobile online.
In early April, the Pablo Center debuted its “ARTmobile@Home” series, which features art projects that can be completed with limited supplies by kids ages 4 and up (with a bit of adult help). So far, projects have included creating a photosynthesis mobile, a wellness banner, and a rainbow fish – all with supplies that families are likely to have on hand, such as construction paper, string, and dried branches.
“Sometimes we need a push to get us moving in a direction that seems unclear, so coronavirus pushed us out of our comfort zone and into our homes where we have had to be intensely creative problem solvers,” said Rose Dolan-Neill,the Pablo Center’s visual and literary arts manager.
A supply list is posted on the Pablo Center’s Facebook page each Friday, while video tutorials are shared the following Thursday. The videos are also available on the Pablo Center’s website, and additional non-video ARTmobile content can be found at that website as well as on Pinterest.
“Prior to opening (in 2018), we had envisioned a strong online art and educational component,” Pablo Center Executive Director Jason Jon Anderson said. “As we have been going through our first 16 months of startup there never seemed to be the right time to launch this. With the current shift in our operating focus due to COVID-19, now seemed like the best time for us to launch this platform. It is the perfect time for us to share, learn, and grow as we go.”
The first two videos were created by Rose Dolan-Neill, the Pablo Center’s visual and literary arts manager. In the first few videos, those are her hands you see skillfully assembling the art projects, while the musical accompaniment was created by Evan Middlesworth, the center’s director of artistic programming (who also happens to be an accomplished musician and music producer).
“Sometimes we need a push to get us moving in a direction that seems unclear, so coronavirus pushed us out of our comfort zone and into our homes where we have had to be intensely creative problem solvers,” Dolan-Neill said. “I mean, I had to muster all of my MacGyver skills to figure out how to turn my phone into an overhead camera. I’ve never filmed instructional videos before, let alone my own hands creating, so that was a big learning curve.”
Added Middlesworth: “Rose took the idea and ran with it, coming up with how to shoot the videos from home. It’s wonderful to see it all come together from the spark of an idea to having something for folks to watch and participate in.”
While the project is still new, the videos have already been viewed thousands of times and have attracted positive feedbacks from parents and educators, the Pablo Center said.
In addition to Dolan-Neill, other ARTmobile educators are also creating online content now, so art-hungry families can expect to see projects continue to pop up on their social media feeds. And even after the “Safer at Home” order is lifted and the ARTmobile can once again pop up for in-person events, families can expect to see the ARTmobile continue online.
“Our instructors are all really looking forward to when they can safely create with children and families again – making art is a process of connection for children,” Dolan-Neill said. “It is a gift to be able to share our love of art with our community, and ARTmobile thrives on being a conduit for expression through the arts.”