FACT! Art Program Keeps Families Creating Together

The past year has changed everything. The way we work, play, eat, etc. has been upended by living in a pandemic. Summer camps were canceled and many of the programs parents and kids relied upon were paused or eliminated completely. Throughout the pandemic there have been pockets of normalcy and ways to make sure that we survive this thing with not only our bodies but our minds intact. One way many of us did that was through the creation of art. 

Despite still being in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, with numbers stagnant or lower, there are signs of life emerging in the world. One of those is the return of summer camps and other programs. Parents rejoice. Soon, sign-ups for one of the few completely free programs, the FACT program will open and, though it will remain virtual, it will provide families with art instruction and supplies for 10 weeks of art experiences.

Founded in Washington, D.C. and proctored by Bobby Austin, the FACT program was developed as an initiative through the Neighborhood Associates Corporation. The program partners with affordable housing communities and believes that creative families build stronger communities. As such, all youth involved in the FACT program do so with a parent, guardian or other important adult in their lives. FACT stands for Families Are Artists, Creators, and Teachers. It is a program that brings families together over art. Louisville is one of the program’s pilot cities with the local chapter starting in 2018. Any family, anywhere in the city, can participate. 

“The FACT Program launched in early 2018, serving families in affordable housing in Louisville’s Russell Neighborhood as well as in Wilmington, North Carolina, and Bradenton, Florida,” said FACT Communications Coordinator Alexander Bain in an email. “FACT is generously funded by the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust of North Carolina, which supports initiatives in those states.”

“We have worked for many years with the City View Park community, and so it was an exciting privilege to be able to bring our whole-family program to City View families and to welcome the Russell neighborhood as a whole. Going forward, we invite families from across Metro Louisville to join us on our journey.”

Locally, the classes are run by teaching artist and researcher Marlesha Woods. Woods has been involved with the project from the beginning. 

“Currently, we have 10 families per session, but right now I think we’re ramping that up to 15 families per term,” Woods said. 

In terms of how many people in each family can participate, Woods said: “Last time, there was like a family of seven or eight. And so in that case, it was a mom, her kids, she invited her sister, her sister’s boyfriend. I mean, like, you really get to define what that looks like.”

The idea that families can be whatever we make them is important to the program and the communities it serves. Families can be so many things.

To some families, the program serves as a means of transformation. 

“Some people don’t even know they have skills. Right, cause there’s this idea, especially around art, that art has this level of, you know, it’s rather elite or it’s kind of pretentious…,” said Woods. “We don’t do the ‘can’t’ stuff. We’re going to try. You know, like, we’re not asking you to be Rembrandt. We don’t even study the classical artists. What does art look like to you?”

“When we can, we have guest speakers that come in and do yoga and drama and poetry or spoken word. So yeah, I’m a visual, interdisciplinary artist, but most of what I do is visual. Anything that I don’t do — or I’m not doing presently — I try to incorporate other people.”

Being involved with the program includes not only the ability to experience several types of creative expression — there are, in non-pandemic years, the chance for outings and field trips with the program funding meals and the experiences. 

All of those amenities will return one day, but while we’re still limiting our contacts, yet trying to find outlets for our brains and bodies during the end — we hope it’s the end — of COVID, art is never a bad time. •

For more information, visit fact2genart.org. New spring sessions for 10-week virtual art programs start on April 20 and April 27.