Cornell Creative Arts Center's Inclusive Approach to Virtual Classes | Sponsored | General Arts & Culture | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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Supportive Arts Instructor Jillian Rahm.
  • Supportive Arts Instructor Jillian Rahm.

This April, after two years of construction, the Cornell Creative Arts Center (CCAC) was finally ready to open its doors. The coronavirus pandemic, of course, had other plans. Knocking down barriers to access, though, is the exact mission of the CCAC, an organization developed by the Arc Mid-Hudson to provide inclusive arts programming to the Kingston community. Whether the constraints are finances, time, a developmental disability, or even the ability to access the building itself, the organization has designed every aspect of its location and services to introduce the arts to as much of the community as possible.

Located on Cornell Street in Midtown, the newly completed 12,000-square-foot center houses a ceramics studio, gallery space, art classroom and studio, and an 1,800-square-foot dance and movement studio, as well as a co-working space and four office/studio rentals. While the CCAC team is looking forward to fully opening the space to the community in the future, this summer they have wholeheartedly pivoted to virtual offerings, which are live-streamed through an app called Mindbody. While the virtual classes offer a solution in the short-term, the team also sees a new world of possibilities for the organization's long-term programming.

For instance, while a last-minute change to childcare plans might prevent someone from making an in-person class, virtual offerings can provide a backup plan for at-home attendance. Those with physical disabilities or irregular access to transportation can more easily commit to one of the CCAC's classes offered virtually, which are specifically designed for participation by all ages and ability levels. "Not only is this a great opportunity right now, but in the future it will be a great way of offering accessible services," says Art Director Rachel Jacob. "We're hoping it really reduces those barriers to participation."

For the month of June, Jacob and the team of instructors also designed their virtual curriculum around the theme of mental health and self-care. "We know it's so important for people to have that opportunity right now to self-express, to feel their feelings and process their emotions," she says. So far, the class offerings have included adaptive dance, a style that modifies traditional techniques for all types of movement and creative expression; chair-based yoga and guided meditation classes; and art workshops designed with both beginning and advanced artists in mind.

Because so many people are still spending so much time at home, June's art workshop projects also featured supplies people might already have in their houses, like making collages from household materials, painting mandala rocks, and creating no-sew tee shirt masks. Later this summer, the CCAC hopes to collaborate with local organizations on art materials kits that students can pick up directly from the center.

While this wasn't the grand opening Jacob and the team at CCAC had envisioned, the shift certainly feels true to the organization's mission. The virtual classes offer the opportunity to cast a wider net in the Ulster County community and beyond. "We really do hope to see a mix of people coming into these classes. We're excited to see who wants to participate, and what their wants and needs are," says Jacob. "There are so many different parts of our community we're excited to work with."

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