Phenomenal Woman Project Goes Virtual!
On March 10th and 12th our Phenomenal Woman Project (PWP) after-school program met for its first two sessions. In the first week of this program, which focused on upcycled clothing, our teens toured and familiarized themselves with Wrong Brain HQ and the textile studio of Sam Paolini – a space where they were slated to be creating and repurposing fashions for eight weeks. They also got their first taste of designing via the game “Pile Pick,” in which the teens grabbed a clothing item from a pile, sketched out an upcycling approach, and shared their plan. In the second session, we began our group contract. Teens were given paper clothing shapes as the canvas for one positively phrased guideline for our group, and one hope/wish for fashion, or opinion on creativity and art. Our group dynamic was growing, as was momentum and excitement for the projects.
On March 12th during our post-program staff meeting, silkscreens, linoleum blocks, inks, and carving tools were ordered for participants. And on March 14th, following the decision of district schools, the Phenomenal Woman Project program was temporarily suspended.
The next week, AIR program staff met virtually with PWP teaching artist, Sam Paolini, to discuss a plan of action. How can we adapt this program and projects while practicing social distancing? On March 17th-19th, Sam tailored the curriculum to Zoom’s online conferencing platform. They created drawing prompts focused on design and our theme of “reclamation,” issued an updated material list, and devised a plan for a hands-free collaborative project. Program staff prepared eighteen sanitized packages of art supplies, printed instructional materials, and shelf-stable snacks. Program participants and families were phoned for permission to deliver the packages, and to check-in about resources and technology access. On March 20, packages were delivered to the doorsteps of PWP teens with glove-laden hands.
That brings us to this week. On March 24th, our PWP program met virtually – an AIR first! Eleven teens came out for our first digital session. We began with a check-in where the teens were asked to share a carbohydrate that described how they were feeling, and one way they’ve been using their creativity since we last met. Sam then led a lesson on the visual elements of pattern and instructed us to create our own! We temporarily disabled our cameras, so that we could focus on our art without distraction. Afterward, teens had the opportunity to share back their original patterns! We ended our first virtual program by asking teens for suggestions on improving our sessions and thoughts on virtual meeting etiquette. A group cheer followed, as did a modified pass-the-pulse.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed the trajectory for this program. We’re unable to meet as a group in person and our program venue, Wrong Brain, has closed its doors for the time being. As a result, we’re unable to delve into screenprinting, dyeing, stamp-making, and other upcycling techniques. Despite these challenges, Arts in Reach continues to be innovative and adaptable. What remains unaffected in this time of social disruption, is the community we’ve established and our commitment to the brave practice of creating and sharing artwork.