Being Socially Conscious is Baked, Glued, and Painted into Our Mission!

September 2, 2022
By Beth Herrild

Being socially conscious is in our mission! From the very beginning of Outside the Box Creation, we’ve been painfully aware that there were so many kids in the world without parents who are able or who will purchase our art experiences for them. I think about my twelve plus years as an art docent (a.k.a. unpaid art teacher,) in my kids’ elementary school classrooms. I saw some of their classmates absolutely light up while creating art! Often, they were the same kids who were struggling in the core subjects and art was a way for them to feel like school could be a place they fit in and felt comfortable. They discovered there was a subject that they loved. I would often come into the classroom and set up while they were at recess. Some of those kids would run back to the classroom when they saw me coming in to set up a project. It’s no small thing for a first or second grader to be so eager to do art that they were willing to give up recess! Now we’re hearing a lot about how much our kids’ educations have suffered during the first part of the pandemic. According to this article in the New York Times, The Pandemic Erased Two Decades of Progress in Math and Reading. “The declines spanned almost all races and income levels and were markedly worse for the lowest-performing students.” We believe that art can help sneak in additional learning for a lot of kids. That’s one reason we include a relevant book in every box. Art and reading are both meaning-making activities. Art can help kids be better readers. For more about this, check out our blog post on How Art Can Help You Raise A Reader.

When I was an art docent, I often tied the art project in with other subjects the classes were studying so that it was a fun easy way for kids to enhance their learning in the other subjects. Sometimes history feels kind of dry to kids, but doing an art project focused on that time period can really bring it alive! Math and the Fibonacci sequence don’t float every elementary student’s boat, but for those kids, seeing how math relates to patterns in nature is mind blowing! I saw how my intelligent creative son used to shine in school whenever he could use his creativity in a project and how he struggled when he couldn’t.

Several years ago, I volunteered at The Sanctuary Art Center in Seattle. It’s a safe, intentional drop-in for street involved and homeless youth and young adults. I saw how art could not only be soothing, but could also help build confidence and self-esteem, and even for some of the youth, art, was a way into a job. I also taught art, as a volunteer, at Echo Glen Children’s Center, a juvenile detention/rehabilitation center In Snoqualmie, WA. I often felt that if I had been able to work with the kids, doing art, when they were younger, they wouldn’t have ended up there. The research is very clear that a quality visual arts education enhances self-esteem and empathy and increases creative problem solving and overall cognitive functioning. Here is just one article about the benefits of a quality visual arts education for kids.

A couple of years ago, Outside the Box Creation worked with The Washington Corrections Center for Women. When children visit their moms, they can have up to two hours together, but often the visits are strained and difficult. Many kids have a hard time just sitting with a parent and talking. They’d much rather be involved in a creative activity together. Our goal was to provide our boxes so that the offenders, who were mothers, could do art projects with their kids when they visited. Then, the children could take the picture book, art supplies and hopefully the mom’s artwork, home. We are elated to say that we may have helped just a little bit.

Over the last several years we’ve donated supplies and boxes to a variety of non-profits, schools, etc. We partnered with the Pacific Northwest Art School to provide boxes to CADA in Oak Harbor, Washington. CADA, Citizens Against Domestic & Sexual Abuse, is a non-profit organization here on Whidbey Island. We chose a marker, Zen drawing, project for the boxes so that kids could easily enjoy it and hopefully the moms would too!I saw, first hand, how art got my sister through hospice with our mom. We also partnered with the Pacific Northwest Art School, to provide an art self-care day for the CADA staff. Last year we also sent a bunch of books and acrylic paint sets to a 5th grade classroom in Indiana. The teacher and students were so appreciative. You can see their adorable thank you note below! The ridiculously low budgets that teachers have for supplies have been in the news a lot lately.

The first thing you’ll notice about this book is the absolutely beautiful watercolor illustrations and the fact that it is a super sweet story! A mother and her two sons go fishing. The boys keep trying to get her to say which one she loves best and which one is better at fishing. The mom not only refuses to choose a favorite, but uses color and vibrant adverbs and adjectives to bring their unique gifts and personalities alive. The author’s words conjure striking visual images. They even incorporate some onomatopoeia (words that phonetically imitate or resemble the sound they describe). This book is a great way to launch kids’ imaginations in full color! “Why Max, I love you the reddest! I love you the color of a leopard’s eyes when it prowls through the jungle, the color of a campfire at the edge of the flame…”

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5th Grade Thank You Note

We continue to donate and help wherever and whenever we can. If you’re interested in collaborating with us for the greater good please contact us. We’d love to meet you & chat! We often have orphaned art supplies where we had to purchase things by the case and have some leftover from past boxes. If you’re interested in a donation of art supplies, please contact us. It’s a lot easier for us to donate orphaned books and supplies than boxes.

As I have been talking about this work over the past years, many people have asked if they could simply go onto our website and purchase a box for the prison. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do that. But now, we are excited to announce that you can go on our website and purchase a box to be donated to Seattle Children’s Hospital! We have had several customers purchase our boxes and send them to friends and family in the hospital. Other customers have shared stories about how an afternoon of art was a much needed respite from caring for a loved one with cancer. Art can be amazingly powerful and comforting during stressful times. I am overjoyed to have the ability to make this happen for children and families staying at Seattle Children’s Hospital! Being socially conscious is in our mission for as long as we’re in business.


Artwork Done By One of the Moms at The Washington Corrections Center for Women