Photo by Rifqi Ali Ridho on Unsplash

By Jennifer Juniper

Skagit Valley College Whidbey Island Campus Art Club weathers the pandemic by providing a safe social space and engaging events for members every Monday from 2-4 pm via Zoom. You don’t even have to be a current student or a Whidbey resident to join in the fun because Art Club is open to everyone!

Like most people, the Art Club members have had to adapt to remote operations, but artists are inherently creative. They have tailored their meetings and events to work from a safe distance. One of the club’s recent events was a virtual painting lesson dubbed B.Y.O.B or Bring Your Own Brushes. The class was taught by former SVC student Melissa Hand. Participants in the event were given a supply list with suggested paint colors, canvas, and types of brushes ahead of time. The end result was a Vincent Van Gogh Starry Night style depiction of our iconic Deception Pass Bridge!

One of the Art Clubs’ recurring events is their seasonal gift exchange. It started out as a Secret Santa event but became so popular they expanded on the concept with a gift exchange for each season. The members list three wishes or themes they would like for a piece of art such as flowers, a favorite animal, skulls, or a favorite color. They are then secretly paired up with another artist who can fulfill the wish. When it’s time to exchange the gifts, their advisor facilitates contact-free drop-off and pickup. Just like the traditional secret gift exchange, the giver knows who they are creating for and the recipient only finds out when they receive the gift.

SVC graduate and current English tutor Josh Steinagel showed off a couple of the gifts he has received. One of the gifts was a wolf and mountain scape burned into wood created by SVC graduate Jackie Anderson and the other gift was a depiction of a fox and moon painted by Shannon Zimmerman. Steinagel says that the artists look forward to sharing their creations with each other quarterly saying, “they are almost like trading cards.” He says that the gift exchange is a way for the artist to get some direction and motivation to create because they are fulfilling requests with a time limit of about one month.

The club members are a diverse group of people. Zimmerman is studying environmental conservation and paints as a hobby saying that “you can always improve and express yourself through creative art.” Like many artists, she uses art as a form of stress release.

Other members use Art Club to connect with other people outside their home. The newest club member and President Ruby Lindsey has been on a strict lockdown since the start of the pandemic with an elderly family member in her home. She was feeling isolated and lonely when her math teacher, who happens to be the art club advisor, Dusty Morles invited her to a meeting. Now she gets to socialize at least once a week with other artists.

Morales shared that before the pandemic the club would meet in person and do fun activities like musical sketchbooks where the group would agree on a subject like a dog, then spend one minute drawing the dog in their own sketchbooks. When the times up each person passes their book to the person next to them and that person continues working on the dog. Some folks will add shading, others will add color. This goes around until everyone has worked on each other’s depiction of a dog. Steinagel says that the end result can be magical with a mix of different mediums like colored pencils, paint, pastels, and markers.

While they can’t easily do “musical sketchbooks” remote, they do plan to adapt some activities that they did pre-pandemic such as a live painting with a live model. Instead of being live inperson, it will be live via Zoom.

The Art Club members are hopeful that they can resume in-person meetings and on-campus events again someday. Last year their annual Valentine’s Day and Anti-Valentine’s Day buttons and stickers sales were hot, and they were even planning to set up a booth at Whidbey Con, but going remote has allowed more people to join who are not Whidbey locals.

You too can join Art Club at their weekly meetings Mondays from 2-4 pm on Zoom. You can also contact advisor Dusty Morales at [email protected] for more information or follow them on Instagram at #svcartclub.

Since SVC WIC Art Club is open to everyone, you’ll probably see some familiar faces of former students and faculty. Steinagel says that most meetings are spent just hanging out together working on art projects in the same zoom space while listening to some tunes he spins for the group and he takes requests!