Art & Positivity thru COVID Year
“They smile and laugh a lot.” says one teacher at Dana Gray School “When I see them, they always make me smile, too.” Norma Trejo and Joanna Wigginton are the Flockworks’ team for Art@Schools bringing art learning and encouragement to students and teachers for the past few years: during this year of the COVID Pandemic, their steady support has meant more than ever.
When COVID Stay-at-Home orders began last March, schools abruptly shifted to on-line classes and everyone, families, children, teachers and the District, struggled to make it work. While Flockworks' well-loved Art program was put on hold, Flockworks team began planning for Art support in the 2020-21 School year. “We knew that children and teachers would need more support than ever” observed Joanna Wigginton, “Art fosters resilience, lowers stress & anxiety, and brings a sense of hope and control. We knew we had to do everything we could!”.
A California Arts Council Grant for Artists in Schools Flockworks applied for in December, was approved in June and meant funding for Trejo’s part-time role. Wigginton, a retired educator and Flockworks program leader, was ready to volunteer to make it happen. She brings decades of teaching: public schools, HeadStart, private school and charter school and has a masters in child development and early childhood education. “Art is not optional” says Joanna and she has backed that up with time and expertise as well as helping find funding.
School Superintendent Rebecca Walker and Principal Richard Kale were in full support of “Art Integrated Learning”, despite all the unknowns for the year ahead. As the 2020-21 School year began with on-line classes, Flockworks delivered 800 Creative Art Learning Packs ensuring all children had all kinds of tools and materials for creative learning. Even Masks went into the Art pack, provided by the North Coast Opportunities’ COVID Mask Project; children’s assignment was to decorate masks and give them to household members. Every child, whatever the family circumstances, now had creative resources on hand for at-home learning plus down time, and for teachers, they could draw on creative resources for class curriculum.
Over the year, Creative Art Learning Packs went out for families to pick up at the school, and teachers began bringing the team for art lessons into the virtual classroom. Shadow puppets, finger puppets, 3-D design, origami, creating with circles,drawing, making comic books, more watercolors, paper and so much more. The team continued finding ways to deliver such creative support to children and teachers and have been a steady, positive resource throughout the year.
Fifth Grade teacher Maiah Caito, summed up the impact she saw. “Flockworks has been a pivotal part of our academic program this year. Flockworks provided materials, lessons, and ideas that helped engage the students in the curriculum. They made sure that every child TK-5th had art tools and materials at home. We used colored pencils to color code place values in math, scissors to make the math games from the curriculum, and the watercolors to explore chemistry. They even made a special packet for our grade level where the students could explore engineering through building a balloon car. Comic books packets helped reluctant writers get started writing. Norma’s zoom Art lessons are very culturally inclusive and use a variety of mediums. The kids loved each lesson and it got them to turn on video, unmute and engage. Thank you so much Flockworks! “
This special team came together over three years ago when Norma became the 1st Art Facilitator for Flockworks’ School Art initiative. When District budget cuts eliminated an elementary art teacher, Flockworks stepped in, commitment to provide weekly art for all four hundred plus of the Dana Gray 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students. Joanna became Norma’s mentor and this very successful program took off. Being bilingual was one key to Norma’s role, as the student population is almost half Latinx and many children and families struggle with barriers of language and culture. Norma’s fluency in two languages was surpassed only by her outgoing personality and warmth, making every child feel included and putting parents at ease. She readily delivered information in an understandable way . . . English - Spanish - demonstration. Students just learning English visibly relax as soon as they enter the ‘Art studio’; Norma knows how they feel. As a young girl transitioning from rural Mexico to Fort Bragg, Norma’s love of art made all the difference. And while playing this art leader's role (as a single parent), Norma has continued college classes towards a degree.
This dynamic duo brings youth and age together in a rich mix. Norma finds incredible YouTube ideas, while Joanna searches books and art publications. They laugh when Joanna says she’d still be trying to learn how to use her phone without Norma’s patient tutoring. And Norma says she can’t enumerate how much she has learned from Joanna’s experience and insight. They brainstorm ideas every week. “We probably only develop one out of every ten ideas we have,” Joanna stated. This lively teamwork has been essential during COVID to bring meaningful support to children and teachers at-home and into the virtual classroom.
“We assess learning value, vocabulary, basic skill development, enjoyment, cost, time available, and other factors as we select what project we will try. We also ask for feedback and ideas and needs teachers would like us to explore.” Teachers and staff are incredibly supportive of the team, but express appreciation for the team’s readiness to prepare special projects, find solutions to challenging problems and bring creative ideas to the curriculum.
With school ending next week, making kites and Pinwheels and doing “egg drops” were among the last activities on this year’s Art Integrated Learning agenda. Already the team is helping with Summer School and making plans for Art@Schools in the 2021-22, Art Integrated Learning will likely require another mix of approaches in the classroom and out as teachers aim to “catch up” from this challenging year. As things open up, the team is looking forward again to bringing children’s work out to community events. Celebrating Hispanic Heritage month might include displays and hands on art again at the annual Fiesta Familia. The teams, along with teachers, staff and children, look forward to the time when art from every student may again fill the hallways and create a joyful atmosphere in the school itself.
“None of what we are doing in the schools would be possible without the support of Flockworks and Executive Director Janet Self (also a volunteer leader for the past 15 years). “ says Wigginton. “She is always ready to help and has been behind the concept since its inception. She has been a driving force in the nuts and bolts that make possible this project and so many other community art initiatives that have happened over the past 15 years. She scours the internet for the best ‘deals’, writes the grants and keeps us documenting what we are doing and encourages each new avenue that we explore. And she tries to make time for her own art making! Flockworks has been a powerful vehicle for making community art happen! ”
This year of challenging work during COVID wrapped up with a small Community Leaders meeting hosted by Flockworks at Dana Gray School. Teachers and staff were treated to a Taco Cart lunch from Los Gallitos, while Leaders learned more about the program and ways to help make Art@Schools and other community art initiatives sustainable in the long run. Donations and community volunteers are very welcome. “We are very passionate about the power of community art, but we simply can’t do this without getting the community behind us,” says Self.
In early September, 800 Creative Art Learning Packs were delivered to Redwood and Dana Gray schools for families to pick up for their children as part of Flockworks on-going commitment to Art@School. For the past few years, Flockworks led weekly Art for all Dana Gray students and was exploring ways to bring more art to Redwood School. With COVID and the constraints of distance learning, the Flockworks team was certain that getting art-making tools, materials, and ideas into children’s hands at home would make a difference: art-making helps reduce stress, enhances learning, and generates optimism and fun.
Response by families, children, and teachers was very enthusiastic. The Art Packs added new ways that teachers could engage and encourage students within the constraints of distance learning. Information in the Art Packs was in Spanish (and English) to ensure that all families were readily involved. The enthusiastic response was evident as Distance Learning classes talked about the packs and appreciative notes were sent by teachers and children. The positive community response was also notable, with donations including a $5,000 grant awarded from the Jantzen-Romelli Fund at the Community Foundation of Mendocino County.
“Mask Heros” was an activity included in the first Art Pack as part of the Mask-Up Mendocino Project led by North Coast Opportunities (NCO). 10 cloth masks went to each student with the aim to involve kids in using masks and becoming mask advocates within their households. Children added colorful designs with markers on the cloth masks and gifted masks to household members. Lucy Kramer, NOC coordinator for the overall project, saw the success of Flockworks’ effort first hand. Kramer said. “ I was in Willits and saw a man wearing one of the NCO masks. He said his grandson received it with art supplies! His grandson is in elementary school in Fort Bragg! He went on to gush about how much he likes the mask and how much fun his grandson had decorating masks. He was very grateful. He spoke mostly Spanish and my Spanish is not good, but we pantomimed a twenty-minute conversation about the masks, Covid, and the student experience during the pandemic. “ Another round of masks will be made available after the Thanksgiving holiday to school teachers and staff.
By late October, a 2nd Children’s Art Pack was ready to go, with a partnership from Safe Passage Family Resource Center to help fund materials for this outreach. Focused on puppet making, the aim was to give children positive ways to express emotions, voice their ideas, tell stories, and use their imagination. A special insert also highlighted ways that Safe Passage could help families.
Making a Shadow Puppet Theater from a paper grocery bag and a mini-flashlight became the centerpiece for Dana Gray’s 3rd to 5th-grade students. Several teachers brought Flockworks Resource Artist Norma Trejo into their Distance Classroom to work with children directly to construct their theaters and puppets. For Trejo, finally being back “with” students raised her spirits and determination to help kids stay positively engaged during these challenging times. Says Trejo, “I was nervous and excited to work with the kids in this new format. Classrooms now have a camera that focused on my hands, making it easy for the kids to follow along. Everyone was extremely attentive and it was fun! The teacher said the students were really excited about art time. I hope to get invited into many classrooms, although direct class time is very limited. We are looking for other ways to reach out to children.”
Other puppet types and materials were enclosed including a roll of masking tape donated by Gerry Matson and Matson Building Supplies. For Redwood students, the focus is on making simple finger puppets, popsicle sticks, spoons, and paper. Models for counting puppets and Feeling-Faces were also included. With each Art Pack, Teachers are kept in the loop on the materials and ideas going out and ways they might adapt them to their Distance Learning classroom. They also have an open invitation from Flockworks for help to integrate art into their overall curriculum activities.
The next project Pack with a roll of Aluminum foil and pipe cleaners was ready to go out to Dana Gray students before the holidays with Science/Engineering challenges. Create a boat and see how many pennies can be floated in it before it sinks. Create a 3-D sculpture or action figure as another challenging activity. Several teachers expressed excitement about the tie to classroom reading about canoes and looked forward to challenging their students with these materials.
Joanna Wigginton, Creative Leader for the Flockworks project, took advantage of the fall sunshine to undertake a special art installation project out at Dana Gray. Together with Trejo, a 9 cycle labyrinth was painted in white on the paved playground.
Several teachers and aides regularly use this meditative walk to relax, exercise, and regroup during their breaks from Distance Classroom. Says one Teacher “The Walking Labyrinth gets me outside and helps keep me sane and focused during all this.”
Once we get past COVID restrictions, Flockworks plans to have all the children participate in a painting all around the border. “We expect kids will enjoy this walking path to the center and back as much as the teachers are already!” noted Wigginton.
Flockworks' Art@Schools project is made possible by a grant from California Arts Council, materials support from FBUSD, a Grant from Jantzen-Romelli Fund at the Community Foundation of Mendocino County, creative partnerships with groups like NCO and Safe Passage Family Resource Center, and from generous individual donations. We work with only one part-time paid staff, and all the rest is made possible by volunteer leadership. We welcome support from the community to help us continue during these challenging times! Add your support simply by clicking on Join the Flock and make a donation! Every gift matters!
Art Learning Packs went out this week to 800 local children enrolled in Redwood and Dana Gray schools, and reflect our steady commitment to children’s creative learning. Art Packs are filled with tools and supplies to enable children to be creative at home and to help teachers engage children with arts-integrated learning. As families began collecting these special supplies from the schools, the Art Packs quickly generated excitement by children and teachers in the Distance-Learning Classrooms. With the Packs delivered, Flockworks will now focus on supporting arts-integrated approaches with Redwood and Dana Gray teachers and bringing art activities out to children at home.
Scissors, crayons, markers, paints, glue stick, and pencils are among the 20 different things that make up each Pack, with a total of 16,000 items needed for the entire set. 800 cloth bags were hand-screen printed by volunteer artists. Nearly 400 hours went into planning, ordering, organizing, packing, and delivering the Packs, with volunteers in masks and practicing Safe Distancing. Four trailer loads were required to get all the packs to the schools.
Joanna Wigginton and Norma Trejo are the Flockworks team leading this very different year of Art for elementary children in the Fort Bragg School District. For the past few years, the team led weekly art at Dana Gray School. Students and teachers loved the on-campus Art Studio and art from 400 plus students regularly filled the hallways and went out for community events. Things abruptly ended with COVID Shelter-in-Place orders in March, but school plans for 2020-21 remained unclear until August. In the meantime, California Arts Council awarded Flockworks an Artist in Schools grant in June to help continue the Dana Gray program and extend art support to Redwood School. While the proposal written before the pandemic, realities meant a totally new approach was required to make art part of a distance learning format. The Art Learning Packs were the first step but added an unexpected cost necessary to make home-based, art-infused learning a reality. Given the economic challenges facing most families, the team felt it was essential to ensure all children had simple tools and materials at home.
“These are the most challenging and uncertain times for all of us,” says Flockworks Director, Janet Self, “yet we had to find the way to keep things going for our kids! Art builds children’s resilience and helps cope with stress. Children typically do better academically and are more successful in the long-run. Kids who participate in the arts feel better about themselves. For those of us who simply love the arts, it is easy to see why. Now science and research are documenting how many ways it matters. During this world pandemic, this is more critical than ever!”
Along with the CAC funding, community support and small grants make this Art@Schools project possible. FBUSD provided $5,000 for supplies for the year, but COVID adds serious financial challenges. Donations are needed to cover the unexpected costs of the Art Packs ($10,000) and project material needs throughout the school year of distance learning.
Letter from 1st grader Henry, sent to us by class teacher, makes all the efforts worthwhile, Teachers also value the Art integration support and resources Flockworks is bringing to this challenging school year of Distance Learning during the pandemic.
Creative Art Learning during COVID
Flockworks was awarded a California Arts Council (CAC) Arts in Schools grant which will help fund staff time to help us continue and expand our role in supporting arts-integrated learning at the elementary level. Our Plan before COVID was to continue the very successful Art Studio program with weekly Art for 420 323rd to 5th grade children at Dana Gray and bring similar creative support to Redwood School. While much has changed with COVID 2020, integrating art into the broader learning process is even more significant than ever to keep children engaged; plus supporting children’s own creativity & exploration in their home-setting is critical. However, COVID adds many unexpected costs for bringing art learning to children in their homes. Nevertheless, we are forging ahead full speed as distance Learning begins this week. Plans are still uncertain for fall in-school classes.
Flockworks is right now preparing CREATIVE ART LEARNING PACKs of tools and materials for at-home learning time for 800 children k-5th. The ART PACK will contain key tools like a clipboard, scissors, & rulers and supplies like glue sticks, crayons, watercolors, pencils & makers as well as paper and related supplies for creative projects. This will come in a cloth Art Bag, dedicated for storing tools and supplies at home. A special design is being created at by Kiersten Hanna at Braggadoon.
Each Art Pack costs about $12.00 per child plus costs for additional supplies and materials needed throughout the year. This unexpected expense is not covered by our grant: a commitment from FBUSD is helping cover about half the cost for the Art Packs and materials. But an additional $6,000 will be needed. You can help by making a donation to Flockworks; any size gift will help and it all adds up. Join the Flock It takes all of working together!
Community Artists Norma Trejo and Joanna Wigginton are again taking the lead in this initiative. Norma is our outreach Artist while Joanna spearheads our work with teachers to help them integrate art into the curriculum.
Random Crafts of Kindness
Rock painting has become a nationwide art activity and scavenger hunt spreading kindness and positivity. The impetus behind rock painting is simple: make someone's day with a piece of art. The painted stones are created and then left in a public place (e.g. sidewalks, stores, parking lots, etc) for someone else to find.
What’s a rock got to do with kindness?
Plenty, according to Megan Murphy, the Massachusetts woman who accidentally started the Kindness Rocks movement two years ago when she scribbled a few inspiring words on a rock and left it on a Cape Cod beach. Her Kindness Rocks Project has since gained worldwide attention, with inspirational, hash-tagged rocks popping up in at least seven countries and garnering millions of views on social media.
“The project isn’t about rocks per se, it’s about connection,” Murphy said. “People find a rock, and they relate to the message on the rock. Then they connect with the fact that there is a human being on the other end of that rock, and they don’t feel so alone.”
Join Flockworks for rock painting on Saturday, March 16 from 11am - 2pm at the Noyo Center for Marine Science, OceanWORKS space in downtown Fort Bragg, 338 Main Street. We'll have supplies.
Come spread some joy!
First Friday at Braggadoon
Weekly Art at Dana Gray
When you visit the art classroom at Dana Gray School, the first thing you notice is a smiling Art Resource person, Norma Trejo, who clearly enjoys her work. Norma helps provide a weekly art experience for all the students at this school. As a mother of a four-year old and an avid soccer player who plays on a county traveling team, Norma has a bubbly energy that translates into enthusiasm and support for the students
The challenge of preparing art experiences for more than four hundred students each week can be a daunting task. Each project needs to fit into a class period of 40 – 45 minutes and stay within a very modest budget. Community support from donations and volunteers has been essential.
Offering weekly art experiences to all the students is being made possible by a generous donation to Flockworks, a local non-profit that has supported building community through the arts for more than ten years and the support of Safe Passage Family Resource Center. The funds support time and work needed to provide the art activities to the students. “This project has been nothing but positive for the school," said Rick Kale, Principal for Dana Gray Elementary. "The art projects create a generosity of spirit that is palpable. The students are excited and engaged during their Art Studio time and it carries over into their classrooms."
Students have recently explored making pop-up cards using the principles of origami (folding paper) and kirigami (cutting paper). They are building on this three-dimensional experience in their latest project by creating a two-dimensional base utilizing a weaving of paper and building three-dimensional structures by folding, twisting, fringing, spiraling, and curling paper strips. We see lots of focus, fun, and enthusiasm for this project. This is one of the great rewards of offering art each week to the students at Dana Gray School. “The art program is such a great gift to our school,” offered a teacher.
If you're interested in experiencing this magic, we always need volunteers (M-F from 11am - 3pm). Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for how to help!
Bringing Back Art at Dana Gray
Over four hundred students at Dana Gray School, grades third through fifth, had the opportunity to go to ‘The Studio’- their art own classroom, this past month as a result of Flockworks and Safe Passage Family Resource Centers effort to return art to the curriculum.
Due to budget cuts, the local school district was no longer able to fund an art teacher, but Flockworks, a local arts organization, secured a grant to hire Norma Trejo to facilitate art projects each day on campus. Ms. Trejo has been assisted by Anne Harvey from Safe Passage Family Resource Center and Joanna Wigginton, a retired teacher and Flockworks Board member.
The gracious and welcoming teachers at Dana Gray School accompanied their students to class and have been wonderfully supportive in ensuring the success of this new program. The first four weeks have flown by in a colorful study of warm, cool, and monochromatic color.
One of the biggest rewards we experience daily is the spontaneous expression from students who proclaim, “I love art!” Their focused engagement and enthusiasm is proof alone that returning arts to the classroom has benefits.
The first week students participated in creating a mural by printing on Tyvek, a durable synthetic fiber, using real sunflowers as their ’stamps’. A special thanks to HOPE garden at Dana Gray and Fortunate Farms for donating the sunflowers. Although it was a lot to fit into the first class, the murals were readied for display at the Hispanic Heritage Fiesta sponsored by the Latino Coalition.
We encourage everyone to view the sunflowers paintings that are on display in the hallways of Dana Gray. The array of colors that were created from a palette that originally consisted of only red and yellow paint is inspiring. The centers of the sun flowers are created with real seeds. You will also see the long strips of cool colors and leaves. Students did rubbings with leaves from different trees and plants to produce this abundant flora. As part of the assignment, they could also chose to add arachnids and arthropods to their foliage.
Later in the month was an opportunity to have an individual piece become part of the whole. Students received a piece from a puzzle quilt with an even number correlating to a warm color palette and an odd numbered piece for cool colors. These quilts adorn the hallways of Dana Gray and are worth seeing.
We continued with a study of color and paint and each student was given a palette with white and black paint. Then either red or blue was chosen as the monochromatic color to explore. White as a tint and black as a shade opportunity to create a wide variety of color that filed geometric shapes designed by the young artists. This type of exercise is foundational in helping artists understand the use of color and light in creating.
“Painting is my favorite thing to do. It makes me feel so relaxed,” said one fifth grade student. “I feel like I’m at home, but I’m in school,” said another.
All together it is a successful project thus far empowering the school and most importantly students with tangible skills to tap their creativity and contribute beauty and artistic expression in our community!
Check out Noyo Print Works
Franklin Street Mural – “Matsya and the Great Deluge” by Bojh Parker
What: Unveiling of the next Alleyway Art Project mural– Matsya and the Great Deluge with live music and snacks
Who: Flockworks, Artist Bojh Parker, Community Foundation of Mendocino County, Alan and Laura Limbird – local sponsors
When: Friday, Oct 5 (5:30pm – 7pm)
Where: Alleyway off of 345 North Franklin Street (next to Visit Mendocino building)
Join us for a First Friday celebration of the Alleyway Art Project’s (AAP) most recent mural installation, on North Franklin Street. The AAP is a Flockworks’ project bringing public art to downtown Fort Bragg. The Alleyway Art Project matches local artists with local organizations or businesses to create art installations. QR codes (links readable by mobile phones) are included to a website with information about each installation, the artist, co-sponsors, the inspiration, and any history or fun facts that relate to the design.
“Matsya and the Great Deluge” was designed by local artist, Bohj Parker and was sponsored by Alan Limbird, DDS of Fort Bragg Center for Laser and Cosmetic Dentistry. Guests will get a sneak peek at other murals proposed in the art corridor and there will be music, food and drink.