›› Mike Emme & Beth Threlfall

The Pandora Arts Collective Society (PACS), a Fernwood fixture for nearly 15 years now, offers a twice-weekly facilitated open studio focused on community, ­creativity, and mental health.

When the COVID-19 lockdowns began in March, the PACS studios in the ­Fernwood Community Association temporarily closed; in response, PACS—a registered non-profit and charity—shifted online by launching a stay-at-home studio with as many as a dozen artists gathering weekly via Zoom.

Rather than shut our community down, we opened up our practice to share ­creative responses to weekly studio challenges emphasizing up-cycling and art-making with whatever people had at home. Over the past few months, we’ve made art with tea bags as tools; egg cartons as sculptural forms; old magazines have become collages and empty medicine bottles have become tiny communities of imaginary creatures.

For PACS members, these Zoom meetings have provided a way of ­maintaining community and finding enjoyment we wouldn’t have experienced otherwise. Being able to see the faces and hear the voices of our friends, and share the art we are working on, has enhanced the creative process for us all. Sometimes, participants approach art-making too seriously, but having a creative challenge or “­assignment” each week has led some to playful ­experimentation beyond our usual ­practice, and we’ve all surprised ourselves—and each other—with the results.

Next time you’re walking past the FCA in the village, check out the Little Fernwood Gallery’s window display. You’ll see posters displaying five weeks (and ­counting) of our weekly work and enjoy our creative energy. You’ll also see Hope—our brightly painted mannequin, a collective studio project, gracing the gallery window. PACS facilitator Jane Chadwick felt the gallery, and our community, could use a friendly boost, so Hope is there to help.

Our weekly posters will keep ­appearing as long as PACS meets online. If you are interested in knowing when the studio will reopen, or in supporting PACS’s work in the community, visit our website at ­PandoraArts.ca.