Crystal Bridges and its satellite contemporary art space the Momentary are committed to being a support system during the COVID-19 crisis and have been exploring ways to help through our Community Outreach Initiative.
Learn more about the program, its key areas of support, and the staff’s outreach efforts to support Northwest Arkansas during this time, including a recent partnership with Northwest Arkansas Food Bank to deliver meals and art activities to Springdale school children.
In 2019, the Community Engagement department was created at Crystal Bridges in an effort to better understand the needs of our local communities and continue the museum’s mission to make art accessible to all.
In the last year, the team has been building relationships with community partners and leaders through community listening sessions and co-hosting events with various local community partners, including two Art in the Park events held in local communal areas such as Lake Atalanta and Luther George Park.
Sara Segerlin, senior manager of community engagement at Crystal Bridges, shared that feedback from community members expressed a “big need for the arts to serve as a catalyst for social belonging and community cohesion across NWA towns.”
As quarantine fell upon Northwest Arkansas, Crystal Bridges and the Momentary wanted to determine how best to help the region’s vulnerable communities and bridge the inequity gap created by the effects of COVID-19. The Community Engagement department shifted its attention to the museum’s community partners. In the past month, the team has spoken with 30+ partner organizations in health, social services, arts, culture, schools, and housing sectors on ways to mobilize and redirect museum resources.
After speaking with these community partners and assessing the museum’s resources, Crystal Bridges leadership partially reallocated staff resources to focus on five key areas of support: food, internet, housing, artist relief, and a campaign for social belonging to foster connections with vulnerable, isolated groups.
“We are shifting the services of the museum to focus on the immediate needs of the community,” said Marissa Reyes, chief education officer, Crystal Bridges. “Art and arts programming are powerful aids to dispel the effects of social isolation, but we also have team members who can be of service to the community in other ways right now.”
This past month, Crystal Bridges and the Momentary launched the program with a focus on food support first, as this was the biggest and most immediate community need. Through a partnership with Northwest Arkansas Food Bank, we’ve been distributing nearly 2,000 food boxes per week to area food pantries as well as providing an additional 3,600 meals for school children. The work was coordinated with administrators from the Springdale school district who delivered the meals directly to the student’s homes from a central drop-off area nearby.
“I feel encouraged seeing all the collaboration in the community during this time. I hope we’re able to make a real difference in kid’s lives,” said Zessna Garcia Rios, coordinator of community arts programs at Crystal Bridges.
Included in every meal is an art kit supplied by the museum’s Education department. The kits provide materials and activities to encourage creativity at home. Other cultural partners are invited to participate as well. So far, the Community Creative Center in Fayetteville and Girls on the Run have supplied kits.
The Social Connecting Campaign (our campaign for social belonging) was organized by Crystal Bridges and the Momentary to help those especially vulnerable to the negative effects of isolation, including patients in hospitals and senior living facilities. Nine local artists are drawing and painting in response to the word “TOGETHER” to bring comfort and joy. Their art will be shared through:
The artist-designed postcards are incomplete without creativity and kindness. The public can participate in this campaign by coloring the line drawing and writing a friendly message of hope. Send it back to Crystal Bridges or drop it in the mail, and we’ll connect your card with someone in the hospitals and senior living facilities we’ve partnered with to bring art and creativity to the lives of those negatively affected by social distancing. More information about this campaign can be found here.
As strategies with other local partners evolve, we will pilot new efforts in the upcoming months in each of our five support areas. We will continue to provide updates on these efforts here.