FLOYDS KNOBS — A local art teacher is spreading positivity and creativity during a challenging time by bringing virtual art classes into people’s homes.
Mary Arnold, elementary art program leader at New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp., has launched a series of free painting classes available on Facebook Live and YouTube to provide a fun activity as people are confined to their homes during the coronavirus pandemic. She started the Facebook group Painting with a Purpose on Tuesday, and by Friday, it had already reached more than a 1,000 members.
From a studio in her Floyds Knobs home, she shows people how to paint one brushstroke at a time.
“My main goal is just keeping people connected by giving them something they would do on their own and being able to make a community together of people who want to stay creative while stuck inside,” she said.
She estimates that several hundred people participated in the first painting class. The first class with the painting of a pond scene was streamed on Thursday, and on Saturday, she presented an “African Sunset” painting class for kids and a more challenging class to paint Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night.”
She calls the Saturday morning kids classes “painting in pajamas.” So far, the classes have reached people of all ages and a range of ability levels, she said.
Arnold’s goal is to present three classes a week until kids go back to school and normal life resumes. The free painting classes might cost about $25 at a painting party under normal circumstances, she said, and the art supplies are the only expenses.
She notes that Preston Arts Center in Louisville and Jeffersonville are offering both delivery and curbside pickup of art supplies. For people who do not have access to art supplies such as canvases, she hopes to expand the classes to accessible projects such as rock painting or drawing with pencil and paper.
The Painting with a Purpose Facebook group is filled with photos of finished paintings created by both kids and adults, and Arnold has enjoyed seeing the comments and interactions on the Facebook Live videos.
Floyds Knobs resident Jenny Wasson is among the community members who participated in Thursday’s art lesson. She participated along with her two daughters, Kate, 12, and Brianne, 9. Kate attends Highland Hills Middle School, and Brianne attends Floyds Knobs Elementary School, and both are on spring break.
“We all painted and enjoyed the pond scene,” she said. “It was just fun to go step by step with her and feel like we were in community with other people without actually having to leave home.”
Her daughters loved the painting class, Wasson said, and it gives them something to look forward to as they face weeks of school closures. On Friday morning, Brianne repainted the same image to practice her skills, and the family participated in both Saturday classes.
They were originally planning to go to Florida during spring break, but when they canceled their travel plans due to coronavirus, the family has been finding other fun ways to stay active while staying at home, including making a homemade Skeeball game out of Amazon boxes.
The Painting with a Purpose classes allows fellow painters to be part of a community without physically being together, Wasson said.
“I feel like when we have opportunity to just calm down and do something artistic and creative, it releases anxiety and helps us find joy in simple things,” she said. “That’s what we need to focus on in a time of uncertainty. I’m thankful we have the opportunity to create something fun and pretty in the middle of an uncertain time.”
Arnold is pleased to see such a positive reaction to the classes, and many people have been thanking her for the art lessons.
“If everyone can take their thing that they’re good at or a thing that can help other people, everyone’s going to get through this a little easier,” Arnold said. “Find what you can do.”
To view the painting classes, visit the YouTube page at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2D1gn02G4vtx6EBQ9_0oNA or the Painting with a Purpose Facebook group.