The City of Hattiesburg’s Parks and Recreation Department is continuing its art program at the Hattiesburg Community Arts Center through the fall, albeit virtually to lessen the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
The free classes, which originally began in March, are taught by local artist Abigail Allen and can be found on the Parks and Recreation Department’s Facebook page. Although anyone is welcome to watch the segments, the programs are geared toward children and are aimed at helping kids stay active and bolster their creativity through craft making.
“We started this as a supplementary resource for kids that are transitioning into the virtual learning, or trying to adapt to learning at home versus doing in-person meetings,” said Emily Gallaspy, director of the arts center. “It’s important for kids to have that art programming, and a lot of schools aren’t able to do things like that because of sanitary reasons and not being able to share supplies.
“We are able to do that, and we have the resources to do it, and so we felt it was necessary for us to continue doing that. And Abigail is great; I know a lot of kids rely on that interaction with her and the way that she presents art.”
The classes will be streamed on Facebook at 9:30 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Each class starts with a basic breathing technique, followed by stretching and body awareness.
“It’s about taking care of our bodies, because they’re not really teaching that in school anymore,” Allen said. “It’s just kind of sitting up straight, standing up straight – it’s so essential, and they’re not teaching it in classrooms because there’s already so much to teach and learn. So it’s posture and stretching, and it’s all ballet techniques. But it’s hidden under really silly songs and games.”
For the crafts portion of the classes, Gallaspy and Allen will pick a theme for the week, such as “Underwater Adventure” for this week’s projects.
“(This week) we’re kind of doing snow globe scenes, but they’ll be underwater,” Allen said. “We’ll teach them how to make a snow globe out of household things – like things that you can generally find in any household that his kids.
“(We’re also) doing sparkling fish, which is a glitter and paint project, and on (Sept. 18) we’re doing underwater scenery with oil, pastels and watercolors. We like to let everybody know the week before what the theme is and what materials they might need. We try to stick to materials that any parent or caregiver would already have on hand.”
On Wednesdays, Allison Neville from the Hattiesburg Downtown Association joins the program for a “Downtown Dish” segment, in which she discusses new events, businesses and attractions downtown. Fridays feature a segment on mental well-being, along with a “Good News!” segment from Jamie Massengale, digital and features editor at The Pine Belt News.
During Massengale’s portion of the broadcast, he gives a brief overview of uplifting stories from the latest edition of The Pine Belt News, including stories from the newspaper’s Art & Life section.
“I promote the news, and I especially highlight the good news from the week,” Massengale said. “I enjoy doing it because it helps me promote Hattiesburg, which I think is awesome. It also gives me an opportunity to promote the newspaper, which is also great. Especially in a time like now, it’s definitely nice to have some good news, so every little bit counts.”
Other activities include dressing up and writing with chalk on the street.
“We have a good time and try to share that with kids and adults in the community,” Allen said.