Earlier this summer, as classes and camps were canceled to stop the spread of coronavirus, Crystal Bridges’ Education and Community Engagement departments sprung into action to develop a project that would bring art to children in underserved communities around Northwest Arkansas.
The result was My Museum Kit, a physical art kit that offers lessons, projects, and supplies themed around works found in the Crystal Bridges collection. In this blog, we’ll recap how My Museum Kit came about with the help of community partners, its impact on the community, and how anyone can soon purchase their own My Museum Kit on the Crystal Bridges website!
In May 2020 Crystal Bridges’ Community Engagement team began listening sessions with school teachers, teens, and youth-based community leaders. These individuals expressed significant local barriers and concerns for vulnerable youth who lack access to summer learning and quality mental health stimulation, especially for quarantined families during a pandemic. This was particularly notable for Marshallese community members who have been hit hard by COVID-19.
Based upon these listening sessions we discovered our next project—My Museum Kit. The kits, which feature art lessons, projects, and art supplies focused on a specific theme, are designed to bridge the gap for local youth in vulnerable communities who lack access to mentally enriching creative outlets due to COVID-19-related summer camp cancellations, quarantining, and inequities.
It took countless hours to assemble 12,000 kit boxes in an assembly line of museum staff, as well as intensive collaboration to work closely with partners, developing the activity design, and creating online learning videos between School, Community, and Public Programs team members.
Since early July, the team has been delivering kits on a weekly basis to seven schools across Northwest Arkansas who host free, reduced lunch meal pick-up. The museum has also provided kits to 12 community organizations who have identified youth in need in Fayetteville, Rogers, Springdale, and Siloam Springs such as the Arkansas Coalition of Marshallese, Fayetteville Housing Authority, Boys and Girls Club, Children’s Shelter, Ozark Guidance and more organizations.
“Our calling card has become the integration of basic needs and arts experiences. We’re happy that we can play a role during this time of need and that we are doing so in partnership with community and school organizations, artists, and community members,” says Crystal Bridges Chief Education Officer Marissa Reyes.
This series continues Crystal Bridges’ Community Engagement Initiative in response to COVID-19. Since quarantine began in March 2020, the museum’s staff rapidly shifted gears to partner with schools, community and social service organizations to deliver 25,000 art kits and 150,000 meals in partnership with the NWA Food Bank’s food distribution to area pantries. The museum also developed a Social Connecting Campaign to spread messages of love and hope to vulnerable, isolated groups.
The response to My Museum Kit has been overwhelming. Parents have shared that kids are excited about the upcoming arrival of the next kit and they help to pass the time at home. The Fayetteville Housing Authority was recently interviewed by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on the impact of the kits for youth at their apartment complexes.
Marsha Layer of Springdale Schools ESL Family School Community Partnerships expressed her gratitude for the kits and to our staff. “Springdale is strong, but we are living through a difficult period. I am thankful to Crystal Bridges for supplying these art kits and to their staff members for their love and support of our families.”
Korienne Toney, principal of Joe Mathias Elementary School in Rogers said, “We appreciate the work that Crystal Bridges staff has done to bring a fun and creative outlet directly to the children and families in our community this summer.”
The project has made a big impact on Crystal Bridges staff as well. Associate Museum Educator with Guide Programs Nupur Sachdeva shares, ‘“…being part of the My Museum Kit series has been one of the most rewarding experiences for me as an educator at Crystal Bridges. The incredible lunch staff at Allen Elementary, Siloam Springs have been so helpful, and have gone above and beyond to accommodate us. The best part of this whole experience is definitely seeing the kids all excited and happy as they see the colorful boxes.”
My Museum Kits are now available for purchase on the Crystal Bridges website! The box comes with projects and art supplies and each kit addresses a different theme: Color, Sculpture, You + Me, and Art of Kindness. Guided by these themes, kids will be inspired by works in the Crystal Bridges collection and learn about new artmaking techniques and materials. The kits are also accompanied by a digital component that allows kids to meet our educators via video and walk through the art projects with them step by step.
When you buy a My Museum Kit, your purchase also provides another free kit to a child in our community. You may also make a donation without receiving a kit to further support bringing creativity to youth in Northwest Arkansas. The boxes are best suited for grades K-5, but offer fun for the whole family.
Each My Museum Kit is accompanied by videos on our website. Meet the My Museum Color Kit educators below!
This post was written by Sara Segerlin, senior manager of community engagement at Crystal Bridges.