Written by: Izzi Diaz
Thanksgiving is a time to come together and join in a celebration of the present. In a world where we are trained to always desire more, Thanksgiving is the reminder that there is beauty in contentment. For the Academy Center of the Arts Staff and Board, finding this satisfaction and gratuity came effortlessly this year. This year, “feeling thankful” is truly an understatement.
“What has been critical to the Academy, at this time, is our ability to still engage with our community,” says Executive Director, Geoffery Kershner. “When students move through our facilities, connecting with our teachers and each other, our staff and Board find confirmation of our value and the value of the arts to our City.”
By keeping the health, welfare, and safety of our patrons a top priority, and due to the COVID-19 restrictions on gathering, there were, of course, limited opportunities for gathering to create art as usual in our venues. One of our goals for a pandemic stricken Lynchburg was to keep the arts alive within it, and encouraging those of all ages to continue to feed their passion for the arts through dark times and doing so in safe spaces. What came of this goal, even with added policies and restrictions that could have kept students from participating, was continued, if not increased, support of our educational offerings.
Without the participation and engagement of our students through this time, the Academy would not be where it is today. For that and so much more, we are entirely grateful and indebted to the community.
Adara Wright, Coordinator of Curriculum Development, found that this bountiful feeling of appreciation is not one-sided. In her conversations with students and parents, she discovered that the sentiments of thanks are mutual.
“Watercolor is challenging,” said an adult student. “These classes push me to work harder and they also improve my acrylic paintings. To have quality teachers and a designated space to paint is a gift so many people never experience. Thank you for making these classes and great teachers available to us!”
Others go on to thank our staff for the level of care and thoughtfulness put forward by instructors.
“I am impressed by how the teachers and staff sincerely care for each of their students,” said a parent of an art student. “They really want the students to learn and succeed in any area they are developing.”
Another parent thanks us for the role art has played in her daughter’s education. “I’ve come to realize for my daughter that her art plays a huge role in her education by helping her to become more the person she is supposed to be, rather than a person everyone wants her to be. The “at home” vibe she feels at the Academy with her friends and instructor allows her to be comfortable with self-expression and gives her peace of mind. For this, I’m eternally grateful!”
For some, our educational classes and camps are a place to escape the day-to-day through art.
“I love taking days off work for evening painting classes, as it affords me a respite from the drudgery of work,” says an adult student who works evening shifts. “I look forward to coming to many more.”
Parents and students alike have also complimented our staff on the overall safety and extensive precautions taken during COVID-19, as the need for health and safety measures increased which added to the stress of operating the organization safely. One parent, who also works as a nurse, gave glowing feedback:
“Before the camp started this nurse mama had her worries. I couldn’t fathom on the outside looking in how you all could do a camp safely. But [the Academy] nailed it! I was consistently impressed with the measures taken. The health checks, spacing, masks, face shields, the all-around wonderful safety net for kids and staff. We can’t thank you all enough for creating such a safe, positive environment and helping create such great memories for all the kids.”
What’s clear is that creating and connecting through art has been pivotal this year, in ways big and small.
“We are blown away by the sincere thankfulness of so many, and it encourages and inspires us to continue to offer arts programming that not only builds creative skill, relationships, and opportunity but keeps our students healthy and safe,” says Adara Wright.
“Art has always meant the world to me, and to see it impact so many lives in the Lynchburg community and beyond is truly humbling and incredibly exciting. During the pandemic, I have seen many more people turn to the arts for comfort, peace, community, and even healing. It truly has the power to bring people together when apart while offering us all joy, growth, and hope,”
Art is an invisible rope that continuously ties and holds our community together. Thanks to you, that rope remains just as strong as ever.