A year ago on March 16, the Arts Council of Princeton announced the temporary closure of the Paul Robeson Center for the Arts due to growing concerns about COVID-19.
After a year that challenged everything we knew to be true, we’ve never been so grateful, or so proud, of the community we’ve built here together.
Facing a challenge with creativity is nothing new to Arts Council community, but the onset of COVID-19 propelled this instinct to new heights. Within days, plans were hatched for a community mask-making project that would ultimately provide more than 2,000 free fabric masks to members of our community.
Simultaneously, we launched apART together, a series of art-making opportunities that helped people feel less alone at the height of lockdown isolation. Particularly special was our Community Sketchbook Project, prompting hundreds of drawings and journal entries documenting the authors’ feelings. We were there to listen and to applaud the effort it takes to express one’s true sentiments when maybe, we were their only ear.
Our educational offerings and outreach programs to low-income seniors and children quickly pivoted online, allowing our dedicated students to maintain a morsel of normalcy and continue to make art at home. Embracing the virtual art studio allowed us to reach those well beyond our immediate community and soon, folks from around the country were tuning in to connect with others through art.
Our partnership with the Princeton University Art Museum welcomed upwards of 900 virtual attendees for free art lessons every Thursday evening and continues to be a big hit.
When summer arrived and beckoned us to emerge from our homes and safely enjoy Princeton’s public spaces, the Arts Council partnered with the municipality to produce six-foot safety markers, clear signage to navigate pickup lanes and mandated mask areas, and a mural to remind us that we are at our best when working together.
In the months that followed, our team worked together to bring more art to more people. Virtual performances and artist talks, public art, and small, in-person classes and workshops engaged those near and far.
As we continue into this next chapter, we take the lessons we learned along the way to guide our intentions, shape our programming, and ensure creative opportunities for everyone. There is so much to look forward to.
On behalf of the Arts Council of Princeton, I extend a heartfelt and sincere thank you for being along for the ride. We’re happy you’re here.
Adam Welch is the executive director of the Arts Council of Princeton.