Source: Make It Mesquite
The Covid-19 pandemic may have shut down most live in-person performances but the Mesquite Arts Center – a sometimes-overlooked gem in the city’s crown – has managed to find a way to stay involved in the community.
MAC assistant manager Erica Guajardo said that while performances and exhibits from resident groups – the Mesquite Symphony Orchestra, the Mesquite Community Band, the Mesquite Arts Theatre and Texas Area Artists – have been on hiatus, the center does remain open under Gov. Greg Abbott’s 50 percent occupancy order.
Guests must wear a mask inside and the center is currently hosting the works of Larry Quarles in the Main Gallery and Paige Lehmann in the Chamber Gallery. Both exhibits are free to the public during regular hours and Guajardo said the MAC turns new exhibits every three months.
But Guajardo points to a trio of MAC programs – Tote-and-Go, Virtual Workshops and Artist Experience Video – that have kept the MAC connected to the community.
Tote-and-Go – the most popular of those programs – came to fruition relatively early in the pandemic when the center’s spring break plans for kids were interrupted by a rise in Covid cases locally and April bringing the first round of public lockdowns. That interruption left MAC staff with lot’s of art supplies but also with an increase in the need for something to help parents and their kids offset the anxiety from suddenly being at home away from the structure of a classroom.
“At that time we were offering art kits for 20 families every two weeks,” Guajardo said. “But what we noticed was that hundreds more needed help. With children and families stuck at home, they needed some form of activity that would be a great stress reliever for the whole family.”
Guajardo said that over the course of the next several months, the center’s educational programming increased by 400 percent, as did an increase in the budget thanks to a $10,000 award from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Thanks to that budget boost, Guajardo said the MAC was able to continue with a popular YouTube channel that featured virtual instruction videos such as “MAC Doodles” and tutorials using products from around the house and at-home kits that could safely be picked up at the center. The MAC now offers 100-plus kits per week for those in need on a first-come, first-served basis.
Guajardo said that while 2020 may have presented challenges for the MAC, the past year also cemented for her the impactful role the center plays in the community.
“It really showed how important this space was for the community,” she said. “We feel the programming we are offering is ‘better than ever’ because we are helping many more people than before. We miss people’s smiling faces and the excitement they have while visiting the Mesquite Arts Center but we know that it will return and that more people will know about what we have to offer. We just want all to be safe and when it is time to return, we will be here for them with even better programming.”
But the success of these pandemic-created programs also demonstrates the need to continue with alternative ways to reach the community in addition to the MAC’s traditional offerings.
“We look forward to getting back to in-person events,” Guajardo said. “We have learned a lot about what the community needs and wants during this time and in the future. Although our 40,000-square-foot space helps many with their in-person engagement with the arts, many may not have the capability to personally participate. Virtual and pick-up services ensure that we will be able to deliver educational and interesting content directly to individuals in every corner of Mesquite.”
More information about the Mesquite Arts Center – including a schedule of Tote-and-Go projects, as well as other upcoming events – is available online. The MAC also has an active Facebook page to better keep the community aware of what’s happening.
If interested in supporting the MAC, memberships that enable the center to support free concerts, educational programs and activities and camps for children start at just $25.