When Annmarie Dymon settled in Barrington ten years ago with her family, she was delighted to discover the Kaleidoscope School of Fine Art—especially since her daughter Courtney was a blossoming young artist. “Kaleidoscope was Courtney’s happy place,” says Dymon. “She just loved it. Classes in clay, mosiacs, painting and drawing … there was always something new for her to try.”
For Dymon, the move happily meant lots more time with her young children, but less for her private practice in speech language therapy. “I commuted down to Chicago for a few years, but that wasn’t feasible,” she says. So, as the kids settled into their schooling, Dymon put her free-time energies into the PTOs at their schools, and became active in the Barrington Junior Women’s Club, participating on many levels, and serving as president one year. She also founded a mother- daughter volunteer group called the Barrington Service League.
“I have always been interested in community service, here, and in what way I could, beyond that,” says Dymon, who degreed at Northwestern University in communication science and disorders with a Master’s in Speech Language Pathology. That, plus a second Master’s in Educational Leadership and Administration from George Washington University in D.C.
“It’s funny,” says Dymon, “when I got that second Master’s I wasn’t quite sure how it would come into play, but I knew someday it would.”
And now, it has.
In January 2020, Dymon stepped up to become executive director at Kaleidoscope. “It was really the perfect marriage of three things: My love for art, my nonprofit experience, and my education in school leadership and administration,” she says.
Despite the fact that the pandemic descended just months after she came on board, Dymon’s enthusiasm for growing the school held strong. Dymon dove in deeply, studying the organization and its operations, looking at where the school has been, and where it might go. She also worked with her team to launch a new website, roll out new enrollment software, refresh branding and marketing, and revamp the school’s social media strategy. All of this during the few months early 2020 when the school was required to close due to the pandemic.
“Kaleidoscope has been a staple of this community for decades,” she says. “Generations of families have gone here. It’s such a happy and fun place for adults and kids to spend their time. And I believe there are so many opportunities for greater connections we can build in the community, working with other non-profits on projects and events, partnering with local businesses, and increasing our outreach to underserved groups for whom art can bring so much light.”
Putting all of this into action, Dymon and her board are looking for new ways to coordinate with local wellness organizations to start art therapy programs: “We want to bring art to kids who might otherwise not have access to it because of the cost, and, to people with special needs—being inclusive of kids and adults in the special needs population is especially important to me.”
Kaleidoscope already has a robust program to bring art to seniors, a mission they’ve kept alive through the pandemic. One of the teachers goes into The Garlands where they broadcast her classes through the center via closed circuit TV. Another Zooms classes to residents. In addition, the school has prepared and distributed seasonal art packets for seniors. One new effort here? Coordinating with local youth groups to paint watercolor cards for seniors, including a postage paid return envelope to encourage a dialogue with the recipients.
Through it all, a wide range of art classes for all ages and ability levels have continued at Kaleidoscope. “We are open six days a week—daytime and night,” says Dymon, who adds that classes are kept small and socially distanced for safety.
Classes range from preschool offerings such as “Kinder Klay” and “Mini-Masters,” to youth classes in many mediums, and adult painting, drawing, watercolor and mixed media classes.
In addition, Kaleidoscope offers specialty art classes, such as adult watercolor Zoom classes and mixed media Zoom classes for kids. Visiting artists also come to Kaleidoscope to teach workshops.
“I think the guiding thing that has taken us through the ups and downs of this year is that art is for everyone,” sums Dymon. “No matter what you are going through, you can take a moment to create, view, and enjoy art. Our vision for Kaleidoscope is all about that: Finding new ways to take art with us out into the community to help others.”
For more information on the school and its classes, visit kaleidoscopeart.org.