On any given sunny, February afternoon, Cheshire’s Artsplace has their front doors wide open to let in the light.
Calming music echoes through the halls as artists and students buzz around their easels and put the finishing touches on their masterpieces. For a moment, it’s as if the troubles of the past year simply vanish into colorful brush strokes.
“This is the only place that has stayed constant for many,” said Artsplace Director Joan Pilarczyk. “When I ask our students if this is the only place they’ve been able to come to make friends during this time, the answer is a resounding ‘yes.’”
At the end of March last year, Artsplace closed its doors to figure out how to continue offering high-quality services during the pandemic. While they offered a few virtual classes during the hiatus, the team decided they wanted to remain committed to their students and continue to offer classes once they reopened for in-person classes on Sept. 14.
“We have continued to offer as much as we can, including our oil painting classes, colored pencil classes, all following the strict guidelines of course,” Pilarczyk added.
The main studio is marked off with tape into six separate working spaces, allowing each artist who attends a class two working tables and an abundance of supplies they might need to express themselves. The studio is also equipped with multiple air filtration systems and mask enforcement posters are hung throughout, in order to adhere to the Centers for Disease Control guidelines.
“The students have come to really like this set up, it gives them a lot of space and allows for them to feel safe, which is of the utmost importance,” Pilarcyk continued.
Class sizes have been scaled down significantly. A typical class could have as many as 20 students, but that number has now been reduced by more than half and Pilarczyk believes it gives the students a much more personal experience.
“The classes really become a little family,” she added. “We’re all so close, and we all are rooting for each other.”
Pilarczyk and the rest of the team at Artsplace have put a lot of work into ensuring that the school remains open for in-person classes, and have even recorded a set of online classes for those who prefer to attend in the comfort of their own homes.
“I have so much respect for those people who film anything for TV and movies now,” Pilarczyk laughed. “We spent the entire summer filming these classes, and we will soon have them out for everyone to enjoy.”
But the biggest accomplishment, according to Pilarczyk, is the ability Artsplace has to create a semi-normal atmosphere in a world where everything seems to have changed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am just so incredibly proud of what we have been able to do,” she began. “We knew we needed to keep offering classes, and continue to give back to the community that has given so much to us. We initially didn’t know if anyone would even sign up for the classes when we started offering them, but, boy, were we wrong.”
Every single class Artsplace has offered during the pandemic has filled up in a matter of minutes, whether it be a beginner lesson or something more advanced, Pilarczyk believes the Cheshire community is hungry for creativity.
“They need an outlet, people need something to do now that they are stuck and in a position where things seem so uncertain,” she said. “We are here to help.”
If you are interested in signing up for an Artsplace class, Pilarczyk suggests calling the facility directly at (203) 272-2787, due to the high demand.