MEA Member Art Project Brings Respite and Community

Julie Durocher

Through one art project, MEA member Julie Durocher has found a way both to alleviate stress for those quarantining at home and to help homeless people who lack a safe place to hunker down amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

Durocher lined up visual artists in Jackson County – where she is a professional artist and elementary art teacher – who would contribute original work for a downloadable Quarantine Coloring Book benefiting the Jackson Interfaith Shelter.

Not unlike recent star-studded musical benefits streamed online, buyers donate $5 or more for a link to download and print the coloring book. Participants are encouraged to post pictures and tag the shelter once they finish coloring pages.

The Quarantine Coloring Book features 12 pages of professional artwork drawn in black ink, ranging from animals to flowers and plants, intricate patterns of shapes, a fantastical Michigan map, and Durocher’s own pop-art image of a gumball machine, among others.

“It was interesting and fun to see what different artists came up with,” Durocher said. “I’m so happy that people are willing to share and give to make this time better for everyone.”

Like Durocher, MEA member Sarah Sundberg is a professional artist and elementary art teacher who contributed a drawing for the book of a dragonfly flitting among flowers and leaves. Sundberg said working on art projects helps her get through tough times like these, and she wanted to share that hopeful feeling with others.

“Coloring is relaxing,” said Sundberg, who has taught elementary art in Jonesville for 26 years.  “You don’t have to think, and it’s impossible to mess up.”

In just 10 days, the coloring book project has raised more than $700 for daily meals and emergency housing programs serving individuals and families at the homeless shelter in downtown Jackson. The coloring book is available for purchase through May 30.

“Jackson Interfaith Shelter is an important place in our community,” said Durocher, a K-2 art teacher at Northwest Community Schools. “They’ve had some challenges and had to do things a bit differently during this time, so I thought it would be a good place for the proceeds to go.”

During this “uniquely trying time,” the homeless shelter has been flexible and partnering with other organizations to adapt to challenging conditions, some of which has increased operating costs, said Chief Executive Officer Steve Castle.

To allow the shelter’s more than 50 residents to maintain social distance from each other, a number of folks have been relocated to hotel rooms. Meals are provided in more expensive takeout containers.

Last month, one resident and two staff members tested positive for COVID-19, and the shelter paid the employees for sick leave while incurring overtime costs to fill staffing gaps during a required quarantine period, Castle said.

The coloring book fundraiser provided welcome encouragement to staff and residents, he added.

“When we’ve got our heads down just trying to get through each day, it’s such a blessing to know others are out there coming alongside, thinking of us, and doing their part to serve those experiencing hunger and homelessness.”

Make a donation and download your copy of the Quarantine Coloring Book before it disappears on May 30.

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