Within weeks of 12/14, former classmates of the Newtown High School Class of ’87 decided to form a children’s arts center to help children, victims, families, and survivors heal through the arts.
The SHACK (Sandy Hook Arts Center for Kids) was established, and organizers were able to host their first event on January 21, even before they found a location to host their efforts.
A special benefit event, Visions of Tomorrow Art Show & Auction, will be presented Sunday, April 28. Running from 3 to 7 pm at 100 Church Hill Road (Suite 104) — the space formerly occupied by life’s a peach, and which has been serving as the home base for The SHACK since early this year — Visions of Tomorrow will offer an art exhibit featuring artwork created by children of Sandy Hook, along with a selection of works by celebrities and guest artists produced specifically for the exhibition.
Hanging alongside the children’s artwork will be paintings from well-known personalities such as Edie Falco and Regis Philbin, celebrity artists such as Jack Armstrong, and Senator Joe Lieberman and Representative Peter Roskam. Newtown High School Creative Cultural Arts Council students have also donated works for the auction.
Some of the young artists will also be on hand to interact with attendees and enjoy the celebration in their honor.
During the fundraiser, guests can view the artwork while enjoying food and refreshments provided by Sandy Hook Deli & Catering and Sandy Hook Wine & Liquor.
Radio 104.1 WMRQ will be broadcasting live, and live music will be performed by Guy Tino with special guest Alison Kellogg.
Bear Givers has partnered with The SHACK to present the event.
“We are very proud to host this empowering event for The SHACK and we are extremely grateful to Richard and Mary Fink and family, and Koch Industries, Inc, for their support with making this event possible,” says Joseph Sprung, founder of Bear Givers.
Bear Givers is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing joy to the lives of children and adults with the symbolic gift of a loveable teddy bear. Bear Givers believes that the altruism of some can exponentially affect the lives of many. Its programs facilitate an environment where “givers” are empowered by bringing joy to others and enabling young people with special needs to feel the satisfaction of being able to give back to others.
Wendy (Leahy) Mitchell, the lead teacher and founder of The SHACK, has said she hopes the effort will have an long-term impact on the community, and will also be a model for other towns.
“So many of the little victims were into music, art, dance, acting, and the arts and their memories will live on through this center,” she said in late December
The group’s mission is to provide a creative space for the community to heal, create, and explore various art forms while expressing themselves creatively in a nurturing, safe, environment. SHACK aims to keep the memory of the 20 students lost on 12/14 alive through drawing, music, dance, acting, and the arts.
Since SHACK did not get its space donated, Ms Mitchell is struggling to balance no-cost activities with some fee-based programs to help keep the doors open.
“A lot of people wonder why we are charging when there are so many donations and funds out there,” Ms Mitchell told The Newtown Bee earlier this month. “But we didn’t really go out looking for money right away because we were focused on being here for the community.”
After weeks of staffing and hosting activities at SHACK, Ms Mitchell said her core volunteers are “simply burning out.”
“I really want to be in a position to hire a couple of program teachers by summer,” she added. For the time being, she and her core supporters are committed to remaining open into the summer. She has received a $2,000 donation from United Way for therapeutic music programming, and is hoping that Sunday’s event will help with the costs associated with continuing programs and classes for all ages.
For more information about SHACK visit 203-304-9555 or visit SandyHookArtsCenter.org.
Meanwhile, The SHACK continues to populate its calendar with free and low-cost events for all ages.
*Free Pop-In Art Sessions are hosted by the arts center every Friday from 4 to 5:30.
*Friday, April 26, 7–9 pm. Teen Karaoke Night.
Outdoors under the tent at The SHACK, $5 suggested donation.
*On Saturday, April 27, The SHACK will participate in the Sandy Hook Organization for Prosperity (SHOP) Spring Fling Block Party, 11 am to 4 pm. Visitors to the arts center will be invited to participate in Comfort Quilt Decorating, karaoke singing, bubble fun, and enjoy snowcones and other treats.
Meanwhile, another group of volunteers representing The SHACK will be at the 6th Annual Newtown Earth Day Festival on Saturday. The festival will run from 10 am to 4 pm, and SHACK’s booth will feature a recycled materials Tree of Hope. Visitors will be invited to add a message of hope on a leaf to the tree.
Also on Saturday, from 7 to 9 pm, it will be Open Mic Night under the tent. Bring your guitar, instrument of voice and jam under the tent. There is a $10 suggested donation, and registration is requested for performers.
*Friday, May 3 (time TBA), Chain of Love Card Making Event. This free event, led by Sandy Hook and Hawley schools teacher Lisa Dievert, will invite all ages to make cards for St Jude’s Children’s Hospital as a way to show kindness, inspired by Charlotte Bacon Act of Kindness Award and Newtown Kindness.