Children’s Art Lab goes online for pandemic

Dec 30, 2020

For Benares Angeley, owner of the Children’s Art Lab, the pandemic has been an experiment in adapting her mobile art studio to take home art kits, socially distanced art classes and virtual how-to videos. Even with 20 years of teaching art, the new way of educating young students has presented new challenges and triumphs.

When covid-19 started spreading and schools were closing in March, Angeley, a Mattapoisett native, had to pivot her entire business model within days. 

“It was pretty terrifying actually,” Angeley said of when schools started calling her for cancellations in March.

Thinking on her feet, she began selling take-home art kits for families and kids to do while stuck inside. 

“Art is always a great way to stay connected and ease anxiety,” she said. 

Normally, Angeley travels to different schools to hold art programs for kids, and she teaches classes for children in the Marion Art Center. 

On any given day, you could find kids dancing, shaking instruments, sculpting or finger painting in the lab.

While classes didn’t look the same during covid, she was able to hold small, socially-distanced programs for students at the MAC during the fall. 

Over the summer, Angeley usually holds an art summer camp, but again had to shift to to-go kits that had 5 days of projects because the camp “really wasn’t doable.” 

She has also been doing virtual programs with the Mattapoisett Free Public Library and the Elizabeth Taber Library in Marion.

“It’s been really well received” by parents and kids, Angeley said.

One benefit of the at-home programs is that parents can see their children work on projects.

Normally, parents drop their kids off at programs and pick them up when it’s over. 

Now, parents and kids can actually work together on the projects.

“I’m glad they could be really helpful,” Angeley said. 

Being helpful as an art teacher is something she knows well.

Angeley is a mother of two young children and has 20 years of teaching under her belt. She has a masters of fine arts degree from UMass Dartmouth and has taught art for the homeless and those in transitional housing in San Francisco.

In 1999, she was working in a children’s art center similar to the Children’s Art Lab she opened in 2014.

She’s taught a range of ages from kids in preschool to seniors in high school, though the bulk of her career has been with kids five and younger.

“It’s always just been something I’ve gravitated towards,” Angeley said of teaching art.

After five years, she closed the Children’s Art Lab space she used in December 2019. 

“In hindsight, I’m glad I closed my typical space in December” with covid just around the bend, she said.

Now working in collaboration with the Marion Art Center, she is still doing what she loves despite the pandemic.

“I think creating just brings a quiet peace over the mind and body,” she said. “For kids who can’t express their emotions, it can be an expression.”