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Creativity at your keyboard: The ArtsCenter adapts to social distancing regulations

DTH Photo Illustration. The Carborro Art Center is giving away arts and crafts supplies to students during the COVID-19 crisis.

The stay-at-home order may still be in place, but The ArtsCenter is working to bring the arts to keep Carrboro and Chapel Hill residents creating with online classes, virtual resources and art supply donations for needy families.

The ArtsCenter is a Carrboro nonprofit that offers art classes, exhibits and performances. The center's latest fundraising initiative aims to provide art supplies on a scholarship basis, including colored pencils, markers, paint, sidewalk chalk and sketchbooks.

Dan Mayer, the executive director for The ArtsCenter, said that these "ArtKits" were curated based on the lessons currently available on the nonprofit's website and will be made available for families next week through safe pickup or porch delivery. 

Mayer said the program may expand in the future to make kits available to area families ineligible for scholarships at a reduced cost.

“We wanted to do more for families that weren’t being served in the community,” said Mayer. “We understand that kids need basic tools to create art and we wanted to make those available since this is a time when families don’t have a lot of extra resources and art supplies are an extra cost.”

Mayer said the center has moved as many resources online as possible in the past couple months to help maintain arts accessibility during a time of social distancing. It currently offers family projects, one-time lessons and longer-term online art classes through its website.

Mayer said the center plans to start making these online classes available via scholarships to some young artists in June.

“The classes give kids a chance to connect with other kids they know and see kids from our after-school program who they haven’t seen in a few months,” said Mayer. “Our kids website has an area where kids can share their pictures, so if they create any artwork they can share it with other kids which is very fun.”

Board member Johanna Foster said a large part of the mission of The ArtsCenter is to provide arts education for all, which she said is even more important in a time when students are essentially being home-schooled.

“For many families, making sure they get just the basics in, like math and reading, can be a challenge, so some of the other activities that we rely on our public schools to expose our students to have taken a backseat during this time,” Foster said. “Arts, music and drama are all very important activities to engage parts of a student’s mind that are different from academics, and are often a great source of confidence.”

Mayer said their adult art school is also popular for the connectivity it provides, with interactive Zoom classes in a variety of subjects that give people a chance to socialize and learn from others as well as learning with the instructor. 

“I think a lot of people are looking for a way to not think about social distancing for a few minutes and want to think about life around them that is not impacted by coronavirus and connect to family and with friends,” he said. “This absolutely provides a way of doing that because it creates a common activity, a common language with which to do that.”

Since The ArtsCenter falls under the category of public performance venues, it likely won't be able to reopen for a while, but Fleming Samuels, the center's development director, said she’s grateful for the community support they’ve received while closed.

“I feel like Chapel Hill gets that the arts are necessary,” Samuels said. “The ArtsCenter is only partially funded by government support, so we really are lifted up by our community. Unlike a lot of public arts centers in other large communities which are 100 percent funded by their municipalities, we have to raise funds from our community. This has been something that shows you how much this community cares for us, so we want to be here for them as well.”

If you’d like to find out how to get an ArtKit when they are assembled and distributed, you can email Fleming Samuels at

@DTHCityState |

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