Everyone can be an artist in Firehouse “Sketchbook Pin Up” annual event

Published 8:42 am Thursday, January 12, 2023

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The Firehouse Arts Center is hosting its third annual “Sketchbook Pin Up” in conjunction with The Bainbridge Jazz and Blues Fest on February 4, 2023, where anyone, old or young, can submit their artwork for display and sale.

Initially started by Leigh Parsons, the event has grown in support and participation over the previous two years, with this year looking to follow the trend. According to Jessica Polsky, who now serves as center director, the event’s focus is accessibility. “We’ve created a little envelope with a sample and some paper inside, along with a submission form, that can be picked up here at the gallery,” Polsky said, “We’ve sent it to schools directly with the intent that we can encourage as many kids to participate as possible.” Engaging youth has a dual benefit: it brings more adults into the picture. Research in civic engagement by the League of Women Voters indicates that the factor most likely to get people more involved in community affairs is helping to improve conditions for youth.

In addition to community engagement, the event’s goal is to remove some of the intimidation people may feel in exhibiting their 2D artwork and to facilitate the process of allowing community members to have the experience of buying original art.

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Each submission should be no larger than a six-inch square but can be in any medium. “You could collage, paint, draw, write, as long as it meets the size requirements,” Polsky shared, “and the artist can decide how to price the piece up to $20.”

While visual arts offer many benefits to individuals, the connection between the economic health of a community and the quality of its social bonds is a little-understood area of research that many rural communities are now exploring. In a time when federal and state funding for arts in education is being cut, many communities, like Bainbridge, are focusing on developing alternative strategies for integrating the arts into the lives of their constituents. According to an article by the Project for Public Spaces, the arts play an integral role in “developing social capital by fostering a culture of cooperation, seeking and finding shared goals, and growing ties to one another on a cultural level.”

Dr. Felton Earls, a Harvard professor of public health, conducted an extensive, fifteen-year study in neighborhoods across Chicago looking at factors that affect the physical well-being of people in types of communities. His research found that the most critical factor differentiating levels of health from one neighborhood to the next was what he named “collective efficacy.” To his surprise, it wasn’t wealth, access to healthcare, crime, or some other factor that had the most significant impact. According to Earl, “a more elusive ingredient- people’s capacity to act together on matters of common interest- greatly determined the health and well-being of individuals and neighborhoods.”

Polsky hopes that holding events like this and future programming, such as community art days in the Center’s courtyard, will continue to further their mission of making exceptional art accessible and showing just how vital the arts are to a thriving community.

“Art is essential in many ways,” Polsky said, “without the ability to imagine and create, its impossible for kids to develop the ability to empathize with others, to imagine what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes. And thats at the heart of all succesful communities.” For more information regarding this event, and others, visit their website www.bainbridgeart.com or follow them on social media. Anyone interested in participating can pick up a submission form at the Center directly or complete one when they drop off their artwork. All submissions must be received by noon on February 3 to be included in the event.