building community through art

This week's how to is about one way of building community through art. Here's the full story:

I've come a long way this year - from tinkering with Adj during crafternoons, developing the blog, starting to formally sell my work, becoming an artist mentor at New Urban Arts, and starting to feel more and more comfortable about calling myself an artist. As part of this journey, I've been talking about art a lot with my co-workers at the Museum, and I've discovered that many of them do incredible creative work of their own that I never even knew about!

This is where the idea for "Providence Children's Museum Craftland" came in. Two months ago, I blocked off a couple of hours on a Tuesday night in December for PCM Craftland, an opportunity to celebrate the creative workplace and community that we're a part of. I made an announcement at the all staff meeting and sent out an email to everyone, inviting them to bring in their work to sell, barter with others, or simply show it off.

{ the adorable flyer by kerrie }

The important thing to was to keep it very informal so no one felt pressured to have a really snazzy display, polished projects, or even lots of things to share. I called it "creative work" instead of art, and invited creative work of all mediums - however anyone wanted to interpret that - even unexpected things like music and food (we had a cookie swap for those that consider themselves artists in the kitchen!). Kerrie sketched an adorable flyer to get the word out to our coworkers who wanted to attend just to enjoy and maybe do a little holiday shopping.

{ margaret getting her zipper brooches ready at crafternoon }

And it was also important to cheer people on as they prepared for the event! I invited everyone to my house for a crafternoon the weekend before the event - they brought their own projects and I supplied snacks, tea, and holiday music and movies.

{ erin working on a collage at crafternoon }

On the night of the event, we lined the assembly space with tables and people claimed spots as they arrived. Almost 20 staff and volunteers came to share their work!

{ val's beautiful cards and jess' screen prints and 'zines shared a table }

The diversity of mediums was incredible - purses made from crocheted plastic bags, hand-stamped holiday cards, etchings, charcoal drawings, hand-printed wrapping paper, 'zines, photos, jewelry, and so much more!

{ joanna's amazing hand-painted silk scarves }

Throughout the night, there was a buzz of mutual admiration as we all wandered to check out each others' tables. There we many conversations about the creative processes behind the work - from rolling scraps of magazine pages into beads, to hand-painting designs onto silk scarves, to rescuing zippers from thrift stores and transforming them into flower brooches.

{ annie explaining the process behind her drawings }

And my favorite part of the night - the bartering! It's hard to come up with the cash to take home everything you want at an event showcasing the work of so many talented people, so there was a lot of "Oh! I love this print! Stop by my table and see if there's anything you might want to trade..." going on.

{ jen and I made a trade - a beautiful hand-bound book for a tissue holder }

The night went by in a flash, and I came home with lots of inspiration and ideas, beautiful pieces of art made by people I feel very connected to, and a warm feeling for the wonderful community that I'm a part of.

{ my table...how's about all that inventory!?! }

So for anyone out there looking to organize a similar event, here are the tips in a nutshell:
  • Pick a date far in advance so people can plan ahead
  • Keep it informal - invite anyone to share work of any medium, and encourage them to come even if they only have one or two things to share
  • Get the word out with an all staff email or some posters
  • Send emails to cheer on your artists! Organize a crafternoon to create all together!
{ gina came just to enjoy, and I think she went home with something from every table! }

One of the goals that Adj and I have for connect the dots is to build community through art. Today at work, everyone was talking about how much fun they had, and how excited they were to learn about everyone's talents. This event was definitely a great success! We all decided that we can't wait a whole year to gather together again, so we're going to do it again in the spring.

Carole Ann


  1. congratulations Carole Ann! looks like it was a great success!!

  2. Thanks! It WAS a blast, and we did it again this spring! This time with a clothing swap included. I think we're starting a tradition...


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