U ArtsBridge reaches Utah’s youth with online art challenges

May 20 2020
Tiara Cook teaches an online lesson on perspective Tiara Cook teaches an online lesson on perspective

By Kerri Hopkins

Even a global pandemic cannot stop the arts from reaching across divides.

When schools closed down in mid-March, we had to find a way to continue to connect with local youth through the arts. University of Utah ArtsBridge projects typically happen within schools, working directly with kids and classroom teachers. Following suit with other educators who took their classes online, we began filming instructional art videos for the new ArtsBridge Art Challenge.

Knowing that kids may not have many art materials at home, our activities use the simplest of materials; paper, pencils, and random found objects. Often at ArtsBridge, we work to support other academic subject. But for our online initiative, we simplified. Our goal was clear: provide an opportunity for creative expression and allow students to have some fun. To create further connection, our activities were appropriate across grade levels so they could be completed by different aged siblings in the same household.  

Four ArtsBridge scholars pretty flawlessly stepped into the role of remote educators to bring 20 (and counting!) free art lessons to any student who can access the internet.  

When our group was featured in a conversation on KRCL’s RadioActive back in April, the students had the chance to talk about their experience.  Here’s what they had to say:   

“This project has challenged me as an educator, as I thrive on face-to-face interaction with participants. I’ve developed skills such as designing resourceful lesson plans that can be done at home, recording lectures, and being creative with technology. I have also become more innovative and adaptable, which is vital in both art and education. Overall, this project has provided an opportunity for both young participants and educators to develop their creativity.” AB ArtChallenge
-Sydney Williams, Art Teaching BFA graduate 2020  

“Making art videos like these seems like it might be how we reach our students in the future. I hope that this doesn't become a permanent teaching tool because there is a beauty in communicating and using art as a relationship builder. However, learning how to operate this way and getting familiar with being in front of a camera can be a great tool for the future.”   
-Tiara Cook, Art Teaching BFA alum, current graduate student in the College of Education

“I would do more stuff like this. It’s helped me to brush up on my skills with video editing and animation, which is the kind of work I want to do anyways. And it’s fun!" 
-LeAnne Hodges, Film & Media Arts-Animation BA graduate 2020

“It is a lot of fun!  It makes me think about teaching a lot differently and making sure things are clear because these are lasting resources and the students are not right there to ask me questions if they’re confused. So, it makes me think about teaching and lesson planning differently. I think the whole world is learning skills about working remotely that I think we’re going to carry with us forever.”  
-Laurie Larson, Film & Media Arts-Animation major, Sculpture minor


As we continue to create and promote online lessons, the digital divide in our community is always forefront in our minds. Since many students we would normally serve may not have access to videos, we have other plans underway. University Neighborhood Partners is currently reimagining their west side Partners in the Park program and we are planning to create art activity kits that can be distributed at socially distanced events in June and July. We’re also working with other summer partners like the PATHS program to provide arts in a new way this year. 

 As we look ahead to next school year, we’re ready to continue to adapt and find ways to bring the joy of the arts to kids. After all, we believe in the arts -- in good times, and especially in the face of new challenges.

Author Kerri Hopkins is the Director of ArtsBridge at the University of Utah.