Elgin arts nonprofit donates hundreds of art kits

  • Bella Trujillo, 6, of Elgin, has been happily painting since she got a donated art kit from Side Street Studio Arts in Elgin.

    Bella Trujillo, 6, of Elgin, has been happily painting since she got a donated art kit from Side Street Studio Arts in Elgin. photo courtesy of Carlos Trujillo

  • Elgin's Side Street Studio Arts co-founders Tanner Melvin, left, and Erin Rehberg, started an effort that has distributed more than 400 free art kits to children during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Elgin's Side Street Studio Arts co-founders Tanner Melvin, left, and Erin Rehberg, started an effort that has distributed more than 400 free art kits to children during the COVID-19 pandemic. photo courtesy side street studio arts

 
 
Updated 4/15/2020 6:16 PM

Erin Rehberg and Tanner Melvin surveyed Side Street Studio Arts, their nonprofit in Elgin that closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and decided they needed to put their supplies to good use.

The couple sent an email blast asking people if their children needed materials and donated about 50 kits containing pencils, crayons, paint, paper and more. The effort now has grown to more than 400 art kits donated to more than 1,000 young artists, Rehberg said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"It's a completely donation-based and a completely volunteer-based beautiful situation that has grown out of a tiny idea," she said.

The kits are being assembled thanks to a $600 contribution from Elgin's cultural arts commission, a Facebook fundraiser that yielded more than $2,500, donations of supplies from individuals and groups, and donations via an Amazon "wish list" updated daily, Rehberg said. The nonprofit also got nearly $3,000 in donations via its website, some of it used for art kits, she said.

About 20 volunteers have helped assemble and deliver the kits, with mileage reimbursement, to homes within 10 miles of the studio. The kits differ based on the child's age, such as glue sticks, beads and Play-Doh for the little ones, and higher-quality pencils, canvas and paint palettes for older kids.

Six-year-old Bella Trujillo of Elgin has been happily making art since she got her kit Friday. "I have been painting waves. They are blue. Sometimes I make fish in there," she said. She's also had fun playing tricks on her father, Carlos Trujillo, by painting a fake black spider on toilet paper and fake red blood on her arm.

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Carlos Trujillo said the art kit donation was "awesome."

Like other closed businesses, Side Street Studio Arts has suffered financial losses in the last few weeks, Rehberg said. It employs 21 independent contractors, including co-founders Rehberg and Melvin, many of whom donated their March paychecks to help the business, she said. Its landlords have agreed to a modified rent plan -- contingent on a now-unlikely May 1 opening, however -- and the studio has applied for emergency art funding, she said.

Focusing efforts into the art kit donation has been the right thing to do, Rehberg said.

"We receive amazing feedback from the families that are getting them ... We know this is exactly the place we are serving this community right now."

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