While many of our partner organizations have not been able to resume programming due to the various constraints on senior living facilities caused by the pandemic, Northern Clay Center has been running programming with Ebenezer Ridges at their Care Center and Adult Day programs since November of 2020. When some of the restrictions on small group gatherings and outside contractors entering senior living facilities had been lifted by DHS, Ebenezer Ridges was able to adjust to these new measures. Weekly testing still occurred for the populace to ensure the safety of the residents and staff.
NCC and our primary teaching artist at Ebenezer Ridges, Elizabeth Coleman, were ready to begin classes again at off-site locations, and we were happy to follow all the safety recommendations and protocols that were in place at the sites. Masking and wearing face shields, continuing to practice social distancing, and utilizing Ridges staff to serve as helping hands for direct contact with students—all of that is feasible! We also planned at the outset to have the option to go virtual at short notice so that we could continue to have some stability in the class schedule, even if outside contractors could not enter for a time. Indeed, within our first few sessions, it was necessary to switch to a digital format for our classes.
Distance-led clay classes, where the teaching artist is “Zooming” into a location and teaching (projected from a TV with the students spaced out at tables around the room) are definitely better than no clay at all! It was great to see classes occurring with this group and it underscored that clay and computers CAN work together. With enough staff assistance, these classes can be a great experience for participants! At Ridges, the staff have plenty of clay skills due of years working with NCC to assist with most minor questions that arise from students. Additionally, this skill set among staff has definitely helped with the overall experience! A staff member also took the time each class to “walk” the teaching artist (displayed on a computer or iPad) around the classroom so that they could interact with the students, talk about the projects, and have a personal engagement moment—something that is so integral during this time of social isolation.
Ann Schrempp, Corporate Director of Life Long Learning and Life Long Learning/Intergenerational Director at Ebenezer Ridges Campus, reflected on the classes over the past few months. “We really appreciate that we have still been having clay. We found a way and pushed ourselves. When we first did virtual sessions, we had many hands on-deck, and it made a huge difference! The residents have a really good time, which is so awesome. There is only so much that Elizabeth can see during the class though, and we cannot wait for her to come to Ridges again.”
In fact, Elizabeth was able to resume classes in person with one of the groups starting in February and we were able to add another class for the older preschool childcare group with teaching artist Susan Obermeyer in March.
As more of the population receives vaccination, we look forward to opening up our programming more and beginning our work in-person with new groups, while still following all best safety practices. If you would like to learn more about NCC’s ART@HAND programing, please contact Alison Beech, Community Engagement Manager, at 612.339.8007 x 313 or firstname.lastname@example.org.