Painting through the pandemic: In-person classes return to the Creative 360

“You could look at an empty gallery as a deficit, or you could look at it as an opportunity to fill it with something new.”


In the thick of the pandemic, Laura Vosejpka, executive director of Creative 360, was faced with an empty gallery. Artists weren’t making the journey to bring art to shows, but Vosejpka wasn’t going to let it deter her and her team from keeping Creative 360 going.


Initially, some events were canceled, and others were moved to Zoom and Facebook Live. For hands-on programs, Creative 360 offered kits for people to take and use at home.


With some of the COVID-19 restrictions lifting for Michigan on Feb. 1, Creative 360 is offering a full range of Artshops, classes, events and exhibits. Classes will be available in-person and a Zoom option or recording will be available as well.

The Creative 360, located at 1517 Bayliss St. in Midland, is open for in-person classes on Feb. 1.

“We are really all about creating environments where people come together to be creative, and so we’ve really had to change the way we can do that safely,” says Vosejpka.


360 has reorganized its teaching spaces to create more room between participants. The art classroom, now furnished with shelves and cabinets donated from Horizon Bank, is updated and ready to accommodate students.


Beyond the fixtures, Creative 360 has added new equipment to their facility, located on Bayliss Street on Midland’s southeast side. A MakerBot 3D printer — purchased with the James R. and Anita Horne Jenkins Family Foundation Grant — a Sizzix Die Cutter, a Cricut Personal Cutter CRV001, and an HP photo printer join their new Digital Maker Space.


“We have been very, very well supported by this community, both in terms of grant-related support but also in fundraising-related support,” says Vosejpka.

This is the digital Maker Space, featuring a new MakerBot 3D printer — purchased with the James R. and Anita Horne Jenkins Family Foundation Grant. They’re looking for donations of small digital cameras to supplement the space.

Creative 360 received a revenue disruption grant from the Midland Area Community Foundation and $10,000 through the Hemlock Semiconductor Community and Regional Empowerment (CARE) Grant. This money supports the Artshop classes to keep prices low so that their offerings can be accessible to more people.


“We don’t want someone to not be able to come here because they can’t afford it, and so we find ways to supplement the costs associated with Artshop,” says Vosejpka. “But those ways are typically things like having concerts or having Old Time Radio Shows, and we haven’t been able to do that this year.”


In addition to grants, Creative 360 held the “Inside the Box” event for their annual fundraiser late last year. “Box captains” were mailed packages stuffed with a 2020 storybook, a Creative 360 branded mask, a car sticker, updates on what was happening at the arts center, and five pre-stamped postcards with a pre-written message on the back, asking people to consider supporting the organization.

In the art room space downstairs, there’s now safe spacing at the work tables. The shelves and cabinets were donated from Horizon Bank.

Captains were asked to mail the postcards to anyone they felt might donate. With donations pouring in from the community and across the country, their fundraising goal was met.


“Our connection to our community has been really amplified, and we’ve really thought long and hard about how we can serve the community — and the community, in turn, has come back and supported us,” says Vosejpka. “So that’s very heartwarming.”


You could be in the next exhibit!

Because there is no show in the gallery right now, Vosejpka is eager to open Creative 360 up to the community again with their upcoming “Intentions” exhibit. The prompt is based on the “What is your word for 2021?” challenge, and asks, “How do you creatively express your 2021 intention?”


“When things shut down or things change, you can either hang on and wait to do the thing you’ve always done, or you can look at it as an opportunity to try something that you never would have had time to try before,” says Vosejpka.


Creative 360 asks everyone — of any age, ability, or experience level — to submit visual or written art for the “Intentions” exhibit through Feb. 15.


For more information on special events, like their “Sensations” Valentine’s Day event, or classes, visit Creative 360’s website or their Facebook page to learn more.

Read more articles by Crystal Gwizdala.

Crystal Gwizdala grew up in the Tri-Cities and enjoys broadcasting all the positive change happening in Midland. As Assistant Editor for Catalyst Midland, her favorite topics are environment, wellness, mental health, and the arts. As a human, Crystal is a serial hobbyist: hiking, drawing, yoga, and playing music. Her work can be seen in The Detroit Free Press, Midland Daily News, and The Delta Collegiate. To see what Crystal’s up to, you can follow her on Twitter @CrystalGwizdala.
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