Since its closure in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Umbrella Arts Center in Concord has been reimagining its arts courses. Popular among Concord residents of all ages, these courses previously involved hands-on instruction, particularly in disciplines like ceramics and performance art. In the wake of social distancing protocols, however, the arts center launched a new program called “The Umbrella @ Home,” a virtual adaptation of its expansive array of art classes designed to inspire community members confined in their homes. It offers four-week, online sessions in visual, digital, and performing arts for all ages, led by a diverse group of experienced instructors. 

The Umbrella has expanded its ceramics program, offering virtual classes for teens and adults. Participants enrolled in these classes can pick up their materials via curbside clay pick-up and drop off their finished pottery at the art center to be kiln-fired at the end of the session. One course, “The Crystalline Surface,” explores the art of crystalline glazes. It teaches participants how to craft vases, bowls, and plates with stunning, glossy finishes. Another four-week session, entitled “Thrown and Altered Pots @ Home,” allows students with access to a pottery wheel to both develop shaping techniques and create unique sculptural forms. 

The arts center has also made available a variety of painting courses via Zoom, ranging from rigorous workshops to informal nightly meetups. Advanced painters can enroll in “Oil and Acrylic Projects,” a lecture-based class in which students complete weekly assignments and receive group critiques during synchronous sessions. For those looking to unwind artistically after a long day, the course Virtual Paint Nights provides a casual environment for participants of all skill levels to paint freely under the guidance of an instructor. 

According to Jason Springer, the Director of Arts Education at the Umbrella, the arts center has also launched “a wide variety of free in-home DIY creative activities and artist demos.” Complete with a downloadable activity kit, “Big and Little Art” is a free class that challenges parents and young children to create DIY art projects together using common household items, such as origami paper, crayons, and PlayDough. In honor of the 30th anniversary of Musketaquid Earth Day, The Umbrella has also released a free list of environmentally inspired activities that encourage community members to reconnect with the Earth. Through these activities, participants can learn how to make a glass harmonica, canoe the Sudbury River, and create a Water Cycle Terrarium. 

While most of its in-person classes and activities have been suspended indefinitely, The Umbrella continues to adapt its art education program to an innovative virtual model. In a time defined by monotony and isolation, these diverse offerings that encompass different mediums, skill levels, and ages are invaluable as they continue to endow members of the local community with the opportunity to connect through art.