Arts & Culture

Creative Arts LLP Members Use Course to Give Back to Members of UK, Bluegrass Community

Several students in the Creative Arts LLP course created messages for health care workers, patients and nursing home residents impacted by COVID-19.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 11, 2020) While members of University of Kentucky Living Learning Programs benefit personally from a tailored experience with fellow Wildcats with similar passions, LLP courses and activities also can better the community outside its Holmes Hall doors on north campus.

UK provides incoming students the opportunity to live in a residential academic experience, referred to as the Living Learning Program (LLP). The Creative Arts LLP, housed in Holmes Hall, is a community for students who share like-minded art interests and similar academic majors within all colleges on campus. Programs and events hosted by Creative Arts Peer Mentors help students connect and collaborate with each other as well as faculty members within the College of Fine Arts and other groups on campus. In addition, incoming freshmen are enrolled in six different connected courses hosted by the College of Fine Arts.

After many students complete their first year in the Creative Arts LLP they desire to return to the program and Creative Arts LLP Coordinator Emily Elkins wanted a way to keep returning LLP members engaged in the community. To that end, a new course through the James W. Stuckert Career Center — EXP 396 — was introduced this fall. The course is designed to provide students with skills-based learning for their future career in the arts or related professions, guest speakers in the arts community, a chance to work with the UK Career Center on discovering potential jobs for the future, and a resume building workshop with the UK Department of Arts Administration

“We wanted to provide opportunities for returning Creative Arts LLP members with career building skills to enhance their resumes after graduating from the University of Kentucky,” Elkins said.

In addition, students participated in a Volunteer Experience Project, which allowed them to choose a service project by utilizing their art interests and strengths. It gave them a chance to use project management skills including creating a logistics checklist, timeline, and assigning roles and responsibilities to their group members. The content created was based on skills from their own art forms.

Elkins explained, “Since we are in the middle of a pandemic, the project had to be completely virtual. I was impressed with the students’ creativity and thoughtfulness when creating their project focus. Some projects were services for the community impacted by COVID-19, and others were created to provide engagement specifically with Creative Arts LLP students.” 

One of the projects included free professional headshots taken to use for auditions, jobs and internships. This is also a free service for all College of Fine Arts students and for all LLP communities at UK.

In addition to providing students with materials to enhance their resumes, EXP 396 also provided students with leadership experience. The returning students in the course hosted a pen pal program with the LLP freshmen. This gave the students the opportunity to connect with freshman students during the times of social distancing and isolation.

Another group of students decided to create and distribute graphic e-cards to hospitals, nursing homes and other related organizations. Returning LLP member Kara Powell, an arts administration and theatre sophomore, described the project as “an extremely rewarding experience. Hearing how grateful the recipients at the hospitals and nursing homes are to know that they have not been forgotten made the whole process worth any difficulty.”

In addition to the e-cards and free headshots, students reached out to nursing homes and the Lexington organization Arbor Youth Services, an emergency homelessness shelter for youth, through the project called “Comfort through Music.” This project had Creative Arts LLP students coordinating with other students within the College of Fine Arts to compile music performances to send to those in need of comfort from being impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. 

Student Emma Browning, violin performance and arts administration sophomore, was especially grateful for this experience. “In late May, my great-grandmother passed away in a nursing home. My family and I could not visit her for the two months before she died due to COVID-19. It was then that I realized just how much nursing home residents are suffering due to the pandemic. Because the homes cannot allow visitors, they are left feeling alone and confused. My hope is that this project, consisting of uplifting music pieces performed by UK musicians, will be a source of comfort for them during these difficult times.”

The LLP’s first semester of the returner course, EXP 396, left students and the community feeling appreciative and knowledgeable of what artists are doing to uplift those around them in these trying times. Elkins is excited to continue this course next fall for a new group of LLP returners to have access to leadership opportunities, gain skills to help them in their career after graduating from the University of Kentucky, and give back to the community through volunteer projects facilitated by these creative and inspiring returning students in the Creative Arts LLP.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.