It didn’t take us long to realise we were needed now more than ever
At Cambridge Community Arts, our charitable purpose is social inclusion with a focus on people who are socially isolated due to mental and physical health conditions. We bring them together into a safe community space to connect with others, develop their artistic skills and voice, build confidence and re-engage with their community. But then, suddenly, none of that was possible.
I have the most amazing dedicated staff team and a team of freelance artists and volunteers that support our work and it didn’t take us long to agree that we were needed now more than ever. We packed up our computers and took them home – ready to continue our work, just in a different way.
OUR COMMUNITY OF LEARNERS
The vast majority of our courses are very practical but our first challenge was to make an alternative offer accessible to our community of learners.
We never make assumptions or generalisations about our learners; they are all adults who want to be more creative, get out and meet people. We are aware however, that many of them fall into the category of most at risk of COVID-19, are affected by anxiety and depression, have low incomes, live alone and some are technophobic. Being connected became the priority and to do this effectively we had to know and understand their communications capabilities.
Our first task was to telephone every one of our 150 current learners to ask whether they wanted to keep in touch and how, what did they have and what platforms and technology they were comfortable using. As expected, the results weren’t straightforward, some people have the equipment but not the confidence nor desire to use it. Others didn’t have the internet.
A CREATIVE BUNCH
We are a creative bunch and just 3 weeks in, we had set up safe online classrooms offering Body Movement, Digital Art, Guitar, Printmaking, Singing & Songwriting, Paint, Drawing & Mixed Media. Over 95% of learners are giving the distance-based learning a try and we have a list of people who need work posting or require telephone support ensuring everyone has access.
Creative tutors are already posting up learning activities and assignments using video, audio and text-based materials. We are using our social media accounts to share work, hopefully inspiring many others to be creative.
What I have learned is how amazingly adaptable we can be and how quickly we can make things happen when we all work together. It hasn’t been an easy time for us and we’ve had to make some difficult decisions but everyone is supportive of the long-term future of the charity.
Cancelling our courses was possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do as a CEO of a small charity, but we aim to design a whole load more distance-based courses that we hope will increase opportunities for socially isolated people in the future.
Find out more about Cambridge Community Arts by visiting their website.