Families in cars, vans and trucks alike trickled into the parking lot of Let There Be Art in Muncie between noon and 4 p.m. March 18 to pick up their free kids’ “Quar-ART-ine kit” from owner and artist Misty Cougill.
The day was cold and windy, but together with her friend Jennifer Everetts, Cougill was able to give away 53 kits, as well as pray with each family during this time of need.
“After I posted the announcement on Facebook, I thought we would have more of a rush, but I was thankful that people seemed to show up evenly,” Cougill said. “I really wanted to pray with people … and see if they needed anything. The steady pace allowed me to connect deeper with the people.”
When the announcement was made that nonessential businesses would have to close, Cougill said she felt “really down” because she wouldn’t have the joy of watching people create art in her studio. So, she began brainstorming ideas with Everetts, who owns Escape Muncie, on ways she could help.
“I really wanted to help parents get their childrens’ noses out of the screens and computers,” Cougill said. “If I put some things together for them, at least I would know they have the option of making art, which can be very therapeutic. It was a way I could help keep their minds off of everything happening around them while they are stuck at home.”
Cougill traveled store to store searching for items to put in the kits and also received donations from businesses like Art Mart. She put each kit in a gallon Ziploc bag with enough supplies for up to four children, including construction paper, crayons, markers, glue, scissors and coloring books.
“This was never just a one-person job,” Cougill said. “I may have been the one who created them, but I had a lot of help from Jennifer and donors.”
In the kits, Cougill also included four to five baseball-card size rectangles of artist paper for kids to make their own artist trading cards, which can be traded online or at Art Mart and Let There Be Art after the stay-at-home order is lifted. Cougill said the idea wasn’t originally hers, but she has tried to promote more local trading.
“Misty is so creative, and I think she’s really helping keep everyone connected with these trading cards,” Everetts said. “The kits she handed out are keeping kids’ creativity going. This is a weird time to be alive, but she’s trying to help reduce some of that anxiety. The fact that she’s giving these away means parents can do something with their kids without having to spend money they could use for food.”
Amanda Messersmith, a Muncie citizen who received one of the art kits, said the supplies have really helped keep her 3-year-old daughter entertained because she can’t go to preschool.
Messersmith said while her daughter was in preschool, the kids were learning how to cut, so Messersmith draws shapes on paper for her daughter to cut out. The two also like to look through Pinterest for new inspirations.
“There’s so many negative things going on in the world around us right now, so it’s great when the community can come together and do something to put a smile on someone’s face,” Messersmith said. “My daughter was so excited to open the art kit and … start drawing and creating art.”
Since distributing the kits, Cougill also created a weekly Facebook post called “Show it off Saturday,” where everyone can share photos of the art they are making. She said it brings her “joy and inspiration” to see how the community is being creative.
Two weeks after Cougill gave away the 53 kits, she said she received more donations and now has most of the supplies for 20 more kits. She hopes to have another event scheduled soon.
“The neat thing about [the first event] was Misty didn’t ask for anything, and she wouldn’t accept money when people tried to give her some,” Everetts said. “The thing that almost made me cry is that nobody said, ‘Pray for me. I’m so anxious about this virus. My kids are driving me nuts.’ Instead, everyone was scared for other people.”
Cougill also said she is working on creating painting kits for adults that will be sold on the Let There Be Art website for $20. Those kits will include brushes, paint, sample photos and instructions on how to paint the photos. There will be multiple ways for people to choose to receive the kits, such as a drive-by or through mail.
“I believe God gave me this business to make people happy, and these kits are one way I could give back to my community,” Cougill said. “I created simple kits anyone could have made, but I had the chance to provide a little bit of hope too. I think in most cases the praying meant more to people than the kit itself. I’m hoping I can continue to do more.”
Contact Tier Morrow with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tiermorrow.