Middletown Arts Center has suspending classes, events and public access thru April 23. The Governor of Ohio ordered all schools to be closed for three weeks to help reduce the spread of coronavirus and many businesses and non-profits are following with similar closings. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Photo: Nick Graham
Photo: Nick Graham

Middletown Arts Center keeping community engaged in shutdown

The Middletown Arts Center is continuing to engage with the area arts community during the coronavirus shutdown with digital and social media opportunities.

The arts center is promoting several other online initiatives, including the Mac Art Challenge T-Shirt Edition and an upcoming virtual exhibition with local high schools, “Apart but Together: Art During a Pandemic.”

”Art is a wonderful unifying tool to express what words can’t. As a community arts organization, we strive to connect artists,” said Kate Dykes, executive director of the Middletown Arts Center.

On social media, the Middletown Arts Center is sharing photos of current art projects that MAC’s instructors are working on while staying at home, photos of instructors’ home studio spaces for inspiration and photos of student artwork as well as local, regional and national art content. It is also featuring a series of instructional videos from MAC cartooning instructor, Craig Boldman.

The center recently hosted a virtual photo exhibition that began in March. Participants were encouraged to share photos via social media platforms that uplift and inspire. As part of the photo exhibition, which had more than 1,200 views on Facebook, artists shared many personal stories.

“During this time of isolation, we are working on ways to engage and connect people with art. When submitting photos for our uplifting photo challenge, our artists shared their personal stories about staying at home,” said Dykes.

She said one participant expressed they were worried about and missing their child who is on the other side of the country and sick with COVID-19.

A different person had been anxious and shared images that gave them peace, said Dykes.

Another person sent photos to their grandmother because they can’t visit due to social distancing. They wanted to stay connected despite the physical distance between them.

The MAC Art Challenge T-Shirt Edition is another center effort. Members of the arts community can submit their design/artwork online, and the winning entries will be featured on a forthcoming collection of MAC T-shirts.

“This project came to fruition because we have had so many requests over the years for MAC T-shirts. We thought it would be neat to have a whole collection of T-shirts featuring different artists, ideally in the various mediums that are instructed and offered at the MAC,” said Dykes, “Like so many businesses, our revenue stream has dried up, but our expenses have not, so we thought this would be a fun opportunity to connect with our artists.”

It’s also an avenue for the creative community to support the Middletown Arts Center during these challenging times, at no out of pocket cost, as there is no entry fee to submit work, she said.

The deadline to enter is May 13 at 11:59 p.m. Designs will be voted on by MAC’s Facebook community. Winning designs will complete a collection of MAC T-shirt apparel and will be featured on the back of a T-shirt, complete with artist recognition. The T-shirts will be for sale online at www.middletownartscenter.com, and funds will go to the MAC and support arts programming.

For more details about the MAC Art Challenge T-Shirt Edition, go to www.middletownartscenter.com/art-challenge. Ages 7 through adult are encouraged to enter. 

“We want people to submit whatever they think their best work is, that they would love to see on a T-shirt,” Dykes said. “It’s a great way to be a part of the arts, and to support your community arts center.”

Additionally, Middletown Arts Center is working with local high schools on a virtual art exhibition, “Apart but Together: Art During a Pandemic.” The student exhibition is expected to be unveiled this summer.

“MAC is facilitating a collaborative partnership with Lakota Local Schools, Middletown City Schools and Monroe Local Schools to host a COVID-19 pandemic-inspired virtual high school art exhibit series that will be released this summer by the MAC,” Dykes said.

The exhibition was conceived and will be curated by Lakota East art teacher Emily Edwards. This virtual art display will feature artwork inspired by the students’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.

Students are encouraged to include artwork inspired by images they saw, their emotions and state of mind as well as events in the news.

Dykes said the topic will be broadly interpreted with a variety of media, allowing students to document their own experiences and come together as an arts community.

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