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Timken introduces new online art classes at Balboa Naval Hospital and Juvenile Hall
The innovative art classes produced by the Timken’s education department will reach those who face particular challenges of isolation and disconnection during the coronavirus pandemic.

SAN DIEGO, CA.- The education team from the Timken Museum of Art is determined to not let COVID-19 slow down their artistic and instructional outreach programs. With the museum temporarily closed due to the coronavirus, Kristina Rosenberg, the Timken’s director of education, and Elizabeth Washburn, the museum’s teaching artist, have designed online art classes for those they normally serve year-round and in-person at the Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD), commonly known as the “Balboa Naval Hospital,” and the Kearny Mesa Juvenile Detention Facility, known informally as “Juvenile Hall.”

“While the Timken being temporarily closed has put a pause on serving the public in our customary welcoming, personal and face-to-face manner to which our members, donors and visitors have grown accustomed, we knew we had to mobilize and figure out a way to serve those who have come to depend on us for outreach and education,” stated Megan Pogue, executive director of the Timken Museum of Art. “I am extremely proud of our education department that rose to the occasion and developed an online art program for those who may need it the most during these very isolating times.”

The year-round art classes have proven to be extraordinarily popular with the participants at each location. In fact, the Timken is the only art museum with an ongoing art teaching program at Juvenile Hall. As COVID-19 spread causing a shutdown of most businesses throughout San Diego County including the Timken along with all the other museums in Balboa Park, the Timken’s education team knew that their constituency could not be ignored or forgotten. These art professionals had spent years developing, refining and expanding the Timken’s educational outreach program that so many had come to rely on as an integral part of the learning, interaction and healing process.

Since the Timken education staff cannot be on site at either location while the coronavirus still has its grip on the world, their goal is to make art still accessible and a vital part of the Naval Medical Center’s weekly reparative therapy as well as giving structure, consistency and a creative outlet to the young people confined at Juvenile Hall. The online art classes may be a different way of teaching for the Timken when so much of the museum’s course instruction has been hands-on and personal for so many years, but the new online way of learning promises to be creative, challenging, interactive and fun to ensure that the participants know that they are not forgotten while still having the opportunity to express themselves artistically.

“The Timken’s educational outreach is focused on developing online programming and making many of the museum’s offerings available online so that the Timken can continue to function as a place of learning and consistency even while our doors are temporarily closed,” stated Rosenberg.

The following describes the mission and objective of each of the two art programs that Rosenberg and Washburn have introduced via online teaching:

Creative Engagement – Naval Medical Center San Diego
Creative Engagement is a comprehensive art expression program for active military personnel (Army, Navy, Marines) who are receiving treatment for physical injuries and emotional and mental health challenges at Naval Medical Center San Diego. The online program will provide participants with the opportunity to engage with art as a creative outlet for expression. The program will include art instruction, online gallery tours and the opportunity to publicly exhibit artwork at NMCSD through online channels.

The 90-minute weekly art class also offers the opportunity for those who suffer from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) to experience a decrease in pain and anxiety, reduce stress, strengthen cognitive processing and build engagement with others. Making art is inherently therapeutic as it activates many parts of the brain simultaneously and provokes the brain to release dopamine, which when making and viewing art has a measured and proven positive impact on the brain. At MNCSD via the online classes and given the adult age of those taking advantage of the program, Washburn will also be able to explore art history and notable artists with those who participate in the program.

Creative Choices - Kearny Mesa Juvenile Detention Facility
This outreach program provides two-hour weekly art classes for boys and girls, aged 13-18 years old incarcerated in Juvenile Hall. To meet the needs of the traditional, in person and separate male and female classes, Washburn has structured these classes with a slightly different emphasis and focus. She will do the same for the art instruction classes via online. For the boys, lessons will revolve on self-reflection, English language arts, basic processes for drawing and painting, building skills for following directions, focusing on the project at hand and completing a project from start to finish. For the girls, a primary component of the lessons will revolve around themes of female empowerment and self-reflection. Both classes will also receive guidance on goal-setting for life, health and happiness. Participants will be encouraged to open up and share their artwork with others in the class stating what they created and the motivation for their creation.

Before the pandemic hit, Washburn would often get comments from her students expressing their gratitude and hope that they have made the connection that the art classes are intended to illicit. After painting a portrait with familial theme, a 17-year old girl turned artist at Juvenile Hall said, “I am dedicating this work to my family because they are very important to me."

A 17-year old boy, who participates in the Timken’s Creative Choices program at Juvenile Hall, created a beautiful ornament. When asked about his creation of self-expression, he responded, “I get out this week, and I am going to give this to my sister.” Washburn agreed that it was a perfect gift. Her intent is to reach her students via new online methods so that similar sentiments can be conveyed using a different platform.

With the online programming that Washburn is creating, she explores works in the Timken collection explaining the artists’ choices and the creative process. Through Washburn’s explanation, students will be encouraged to draw connections between art and their own lives and apply concepts learned in the classroom in a new context. Students will learn about composition, color theory, line, value and proportion and then will create a piece of art on their own. At the end of each class, students will share their finished artworks with the class. Through this creation students will have the opportunity to communicate their thoughts, ideas and feelings. Aside from the new online program—and of particular note, Washburn’s art classes serve more than 1,000 students and their teachers who participate in the Timken’s in-person, educational outreach program annually.

Washburn creates the videos in her studio carefully explaining to the student the details of what she is about to do. She lets the students know what they will need to get started and offers encouraging advice to both the novice and the budding talent. She even pauses at strategic points in the video allowing the class to digest what she has demonstrated, which gives everyone a chance to follow along without falling behind.

Upon completing each lesson, Washburn uploads the video to the Timken’s YouTube Channel so that the administrators at the Naval Hospital and Juvenile Hall can access the video and make it available to the class. The general public also has access to these videos via the Timken's YouTube channel to take advantage of an online art class. Adding to her video repertoire Washburn is currently working with representatives at Juvenile Hall to conduct live-streaming classes. She is also expanding her online classroom audience at the Naval Medical Center since the videos will now be available in the Staff Resiliency Rooms offering art therapy to those putting in long hours at the hospital. A similar situation has emerged at Juvenile Hall where authorities will be making the videos available to the entire facility allowing for time to be spent constructively and to help alleviate stress.

“I believe the arts inspire us and help us to connect to ourselves and to each other,” commented Washburn. “We can express our thoughts and creativity to convey what we think and feel irrespective of our backgrounds or ethnicity for which I am truly grateful.” She added, “Art is blind and only requires an open mind to participate.”

When it comes to art, Washburn has found a bright spot in her approach to her work and its meaning amidst this pandemic. She says that her work is a large part of her identity and has become even more meaningful as she digs deep to reach her students in different way. She has a greater appreciation for her life’s mission and concern for her students along with a strong passion for art and the Timken’s path forward while she and her students are apart. These programs have been made possible by the generous support of the California Arts Council.

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