Artists inspire community amid Coronavirus pandemic

Inspired Minds is offering seven weeks of summer camp that incorporate art and science. In-person intensives include illustration, photography, potters wheel and ceramic sculpting. Online courses include Zines and portraiture.

By Megan Wehring

Inspired Minds Art Center in Buda is opening its doors once again for in-person summer camps and courses after being shut down for months.

The business opened Jan. 25 with a mission in mind: to support artists and the community by joining the two together with a passion for creativity and art. Though co-owners Sinead Whiteside and Susan Guerra made the decision to close down six weeks later, they kept the inspiration flowing with maintaining an online format for students.

Buda is considered to be a small town, nestled south of Austin, that is filled with an artistic spirit. Whiteside said they wanted to open the business in Buda for local artists that want the Austin-like exposure yet the small, neighborhood community.

“We sort of found that there’s this secret undercurrent of artists here,” Whiteside said. “But they were looking for community and they were looking for ways to get their art out there. A lot of artists were working out of their garages or their kitchens and were working 9 to 5 jobs.”

The owners were counting on the summer camps to bring in additional revenue and make a name for themselves. After they decided to move the curriculum solely online, the governor announced the next day that summer camps were allowed to open for face-to-face interaction.

“We thought it’s really great that we already adapted them for online learning,” Whiteside said. “Because there are people who are not comfortable sending their children out into the world yet and they want to keep their children at home learning online.”

Inspired Minds is offering seven weeks of summer camp that incorporate art and science. Six weeks are also offered for week-long, 4-hour intensive art courses for teenagers. In-person intensives include illustration, photography, potters wheel and ceramic sculpting. Online courses include Zines and portraiture.

With opening any kind of business, there will be challenges. When you throw a pandemic in the mix, it’s even worse. Guerra said the hardest obstacle they had to face after closing down was having to deal with the uncertainty.

“Just not knowing what was going to happen,” Guerra said. “Being unable to make decisions, one way or another, because we just didn’t know. I kept feeling like I needed to make a decision. We’re open or we’re not. It’s unprecedented. We’ve never been through something like this before.”

Though Inspired Minds is allowed to physically open, uncertainty of the future remains. Guerra said they are now navigating societal concerns regarding safety precautions within the classroom.

“Do people feel safe taking face-to-face classes?” Guerra said. “We’re having trouble finding teachers that want to come back yet who also don’t feel safe coming into the classroom. I think people in general kind of don’t know what to do. They are tired of being stuck in the house, and they know they need the interaction with other people, but at the same time, they are scared to interact.”

With concerns in mind, Whiteside and Guerra will be implementing online formats as well as safety guidelines for those that attend face-to-face sessions. Six-foot social distancing will be practiced in the classrooms with designated artwork stations. Proper hand washing and sanitizing are promoted throughout. Students will be checked for their temperature before entry. Masks will be optional upon specific instructor’s classrooms. Lastly, supplies will be given to individual students instead of communal sharing.

Despite all that has been thrown their way, Whiteside and Guerra remain hopeful and encourage the community to use an artistic platform as a creative outlet during this time.

“With all of the heaviness in the world right now,” Whiteside said. “Art is really important. It’s a great way for kids to communicate, express themselves, get their emotions out and have a voice where words just don’t work. Being able to offer that to the community is really important to us.”

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