In the fall of my Junior year, I decided to take Community Arts in Practice with Professor Katie Creyts. The class sounded interesting, and it was different from my studio and art history classes I was taking. Our first project of the year was to create two murals for Women’s Hearth in downtown Spokane. The drop-in center provides services for women who are experiencing homelessness including clothing, access to showers, food, and more like arts and crafts classes. Before I took this class, I always knew I wanted to participate in the making of a mural. This class just happened to provide me the skills needed to create one for the community. I saw how important it was to create a connection with the community and to be able to approach the project with an open mindset. It was an article we read for class that really introduced me to the importance of having the arts present in our communities. The writing was created by Eastern Washington graduate students who surveyed women at Women’s Hearth about the art projects they participated in. One example was a bracelet in which they chose each bead and assigned a memory, an experience, or something personal to it. What impacted me the most was how deeply meaningful the project became for the group of women. It created a space for them to share their experiences and stories through the small colorful beads and be able to connect with others.
After a semester’s worth of community arts, I knew I had to continue to work in the community. I decided to add the Community Arts minor and made all my classes fit in the few semesters I had left. I became more involved with the Art club on campus and wanted to plan even more projects to engage students with the visual arts, regardless of if they were art majors or not. We’ve been able to host various projects and events like a collaborative club sticker, an arts festival with other creative clubs on campus, and a zine workshop in collaboration with the library.
In the summer of 2021, I was hired by the Dornsife Center for Community Engagement to work as a summer associate for Spark Central. The organization is a non-profit dedicated to breaking down barriers to creativity in the West Central community. This space was the perfect location to be able to engage directly with the community. Along with the Program Manager, I planned a Digital Art club where I would be working with students from 4th to 8th grade on digital art and design projects. I showed the students to work in design software like Photoshop, Illustrator, and Procreate on the iPad. I knew this was where I needed to be. In the community working through the arts. It was a great opportunity and I’m thankful for the chance to share what I know about art and design to students in West Central. That summer only solidified my desire to participate in community arts and the importance of having these projects for kids.