2021 was an incredibly tough year for Ruby Jo and her family. Ruby Jo’s dad went through a second round of intensive cancer treatment. He was very sick at times, spending time in and out of the hospital. He passed away later in the year. Her grandmother was also battling cancer and passed away that summer. For much of the school year, Ruby Jo’s school was held in person a few days a week.
Her mom, Joleen, looked for something Ruby Jo could do to get her mind off things. “It was very stressful at home,” she said. “Being around other people, having fun, and not feeling isolated was really important.”
Joleen found information online about after-school art classes at the Newberry Arts Center, which was a great fit for Ruby Jo’s creativity. Ruby Jo also played tennis to get her energy out, but art classes gave her confidence in what she could create. “When other places weren’t able to open their doors, art classes gave her a bit of normalcy,” Joleen said.
Ruby Jo was particularly inspired by another special program through the Newberry Arts Center—Art in the Park, a free traveling activity with a local artist held in city parks during the summer. During that activity, she painted a canvas of flip-flops with palmetto trees. She loved it so much she wanted to do it again. To encourage her, Joleen bought canvases and art materials so Ruby Jo could make more, including one with peaches and Georgia bulldogs, to give to her friends.
“It’s something she could be really proud of and share,” Joleen said. “She loves every piece of artwork that she has made.” Ruby Jo created a space in her room to display her art, and she can tell you in detail about what she learned while creating it.
Joleen is glad to have the arts center as a resource for Ruby Jo. “You would think Newberry is a bigger town with the kind of opportunities it has—the community is fortunate to have a place like NAC, and I hope that it grows,” Joleen said. “It’s a little gem.”
With your support, NAC can continue to be a bright spot during
during tough times for children and adults to make positive memories while creating.