By Jean Janes
Having an artistic outlet, a means of expression, or just the chance to create something aesthetically pleasing can be relaxing and enriching. For the military families living and working at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) this opportunity for creativity is provided by both the Arts and Crafts Center and the Raindrops and Rainbows Center. While these facilities cater to very different age groups, they both help to foster vision and imagination.
The Arts and Crafts Center is a great resource for those looking to develop some new crafting skills. While they provide special-order embroidery and engraving, they only offer a class in framing at this time. Linda Dusablon, an engraving and embroidery specialist, explains that they hope to give classes in sewing at a future date, and are always interested in what sort of classes the military community would like taught. Meanwhile, in their framing studio, a class is offered by appointment for $30, not including materials. I took the class to get a feel for what the Arts and Crafts Center had to offer, as well as to frame a few favorite family photos.
I was very pleased with both the class and the results. Taught by Debbie De Spain, the class spanned three hours. During that time, I learned to mat, measure, assemble a frame, and cut glass. She showed me how to putty the frame, how to apply a dust cover and select the hardware appropriate for the weight of my subject, as well as to take into consideration how I wanted my piece to hang. I utilized the materials on hand in the studio, but they also have a wide variety of mats and frames available for special-order. Using the frames and board in stock, the picture of my husband and son turned out beautifully. With the help of De Spain, I also framed two additional pictures during my class. All three items now hang in my home.
Upon completion, I was awarded my certification card that I can now present at any military Arts and Crafts Center, granting me access to any of their framing facilities for a small hourly fee. Patricia Valdez, another framing specialist at the center, tells me that each of their staff has at least 10 years of experience, and she and De Spain both hold Master’s Degrees in Fine Arts. She explains that while providing a creative space, the Arts and Crafts Center also provides a service since, because students assemble their frames rather than paying someone else to do it, “it saves them money, and you see something you’ve accomplished.” Leaving with my three framed photographs, I understand the sense of accomplishment to which she is referring.
To serve the youngest members of the military community, there is the Raindrops and Rainbows Center and it is as charming a place as the name suggests. Parents and their children between the ages of birth and five years are welcome to come and play in rooms full of toys of all kinds. Organized activities are available on any given day—a calendar with activities and times are available at the front desk—from Language Literacy to Music and Movement to special activities sponsored and orchestrated by the Military and Family Life Counselor Program (MFLC).
Among all of these great fun and educational options, a number of activities and toys geared especially towards artistic imagination are readily available. One area is exclusively devoted to a puppet theatre, while another area is set aside for paint, coloring, and play dough.
Lindsey Smith, a childcare professional who helps supervise the organized activities also adds that while providing a fun space for creativity and learning, Raindrops and Rainbows also provides military families a place to get to know other each other. Smith says, “It brings everybody together. For new spouses, [it] helps them make friends.” In a community that is continuously seeing members moved around, this type of venue for interacting and networking can be invaluable.
I decided to bring my own kids recently to see what Raindrops and Rainbows had to offer. We spent hours playing, making music, building, and exploring. It was like an impromptu playdate as there were lots of other kids and parents there to meet and play with. We plan to make it back for the weekly art project sometime soon, like the paper plate umbrella day or maybe the spring kite. Simple projects, but ideal for little ones learning how to use their imaginations to make something beautiful and fun.
While the Arts and Crafts Center and the Raindrops for Rainbows Center may serve very different crowds, they have the most important feature in common: they help create accessibility to art and imagination at JBLM.