ELLICOTT CITY, MD — Before the coronavirus pandemic swept across the country, Marianne Daley delighted in providing hands-on art education programs to children ages 20 months to 14 years old in Howard County.
As educational director of Abrakadoodle, Daley offered after school enrichment at schools, preschools and community centers. She also hosted summer camps, spruced up birthday parties and held Art Splash events with adults. Then the pandemic struck.
"On March 13, my business effectively closed once schools and community centers were closed. So, after the initial panic set in, it was time to get to work and start figuring out a 'new normal.' We’ve been offering a free weekly challenge (#SplatDoodle) on social media. It was a way to stay connected to my families and has been really well received," Daley told Patch. "I wanted to keep the children engaged, so I created an Amazon wish list and I have wonderful friends who purchased various art supplies for me to provide to the children who have participated. Each week, I deliver 'Happy Mail' to the wonderful artists who have submitted art. This challenge is open to all."
Another way Daley has kept in touch with her clients is by offering lessons via Zoom, art supply kits and DIY project kits. She's had a presence in Howard County since 2017, but has expanded somewhat into Anne Arundel County. She's missed being face-to-face with her customers and the kids.
"I have always loved children and art. I was in marketing for 30 years before purchasing Abrakadoodle. My love of children and art made this an easy decision for me. It’s a happy business even on its hardest days," she said. "Once the governor’s restrictions were put in place, my business stopped. I think families definitely still need our services, it just meant we had to look at creative ways to provide these services. I think families do want to help support small businesses as they are able; we often need to remind them that we are also a small business and welcome their help."
The DIY art kits and art supply kits have been much appreciated by families who are trying to work from home and care for children simultaneously.
"In speaking with families while scheduling make-up sessions, I learned firsthand just how overwhelmed families are. Parents are struggling to work from home, while making sure their children are participating in their online classes and trying to keep everyone entertained and healthy. It’s a lot. The DIY kit idea came up when I was repeatedly told how difficult it was to schedule another online class. I wanted to provide options for my families to hopefully help make it easier for them and help keep my business going," Daley said.
Even though learning moved online for months, Daley said "kids are resilient."
"I believe we’ve all been able to spend more time together as a family. Things like cooking, gardening, walking and certainly more talking are all teachable moments that work within all of our core subjects. While I know we would like to reduce screen time, there are many free programs currently online. Museums, books, Broadway shows and experts offering free programs on truly every subject imaginable from all over the world. Take advantage of these opportunities," she said.
Still, Daley misses her kids and customers and can't wait to return to face-to-face experiences whenever that might be. In the meantime, she'll continue to adjust as more restrictions are lifted.
"While I’m certainly looking forward to our 'old normal' as I really miss the children and their families. I think I would be remiss if I didn’t continue to offer virtual learning opportunities and some DIY kits. So, my hope is to continue with these programs as well," she said. "I think we need to remain open to new ideas that will certainly come out whether we are back to live classes or still in a social distancing situation. We all thrive on experiences and I truly see so many opportunities in the virtual category. There is so much we offer to one another and I believe this pandemic has opened our eyes to many of them. Together we truly will get through this."