Madison Smith poses with her completed project - all the way from New Hampshire! PHOTO COURTESY OF DR. JENNAH DIETER

We get by with a little help from our friends


Living rooms have never been more versatile spaces. In the past few weeks they have transformed into classrooms, dance studios, workout areas, home offices and art studios.

The Ennis Institute of the Arts (EIA) runs a variety of programs—dance, the- ater, pre-school, music and art. When the doors closed as social distancing measures progressed, the 112 or so students per week that made use of the EIA no longer had access.

“And that’s a lot of Ennis!” Katie Coyle, art and music instructor, said.

Tanner, Melissa Reeve’s social butterfly, attended the pre-school. Max, age eight, and Hannah, age ten, both attended the EIA for a mixture of art, drama and violin lessons. Timbre Pederson’s sons have participated in the art program for a year and all three of her children take violin lessons from Coyle.

“They miss Katie. They were very excited to see her,” Heather Hale, Max and Hannah’s mother, said. Tanner misunderstood and was a little upset Coyle was not coming over to his house to teach.

Pederson’s daughter, Meadow, was bummed after learning she could not attend her dance and violin classes at EIA. “She gets so excited about these classes now that Katie puts on. It’s energetic for her,” Pederson said.

Coyle missed seeing her little friends, too.

She started using Facebook Live for art classes Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 10 a.m. a few weeks ago. With her self-described ‘mountain internet,’ Coyle provided simple lessons geared towards a range of ages.

On the first Tuesday virtual art class, younger students learned about the color wheel and primary and secondary colors. They made their own wheel on paper and found objects around their houses to match to the wheel.

Older students drew a black and white image of a person with crazy hair to demonstrate different types of lines. The next lesson moved younger students into conversations about color families, analogous and complementary colors, and older students used complementary colors to spice up their crazy-haired drawing.

Tanner loved the lesson last Thursday, which involved watercolor painting in a new way. “He kept doing it for about an hour after the class,” Reeve said.

“I just want parents to know that it’s not that hard to do art and music and the different things we do in the studio at home. You really don’t need anything special,” Coyle said.

The classes have been good for Coyle and students alike—a way to release some pent-up anxiety and energy. She hoped
it provided parents with a bit of a release as well, one component of the day they did not have to be in charge of their kids’ learning.

“It’s awesome. It gives me a little time to get caught up on things around the house,” Hale said.

Both she and her husband, Mike, are still working. Hale distributes wine and makes trips to Bozeman and Livingston to do so, and owns a business with her sister. Mike works for Imerys Talc as a plant operator. As long as talc is being produced, Mike’s job requires him to be on-site in Three Forks.

“Between the two of us, we just have to make it work,” Hale said.

Reeve runs a daycare out of her home and ceased operation as many of her families started to self-quarantine. For her, things have been a bit calmer at home as she just has Tanner and her 15-month-old to look after.

“We’re pretty used to being at home. Tanner is a little stir crazy. He wants to go hang out with friends,” she said.

The Magic Mirror, where Pederson is a nail technician, was deemed a non-essential business. Her husband is a manager at a ranch in McAllister, which keeps the whole family outside and active.

“It can work well. I am self-employed, so we’ve always worked around everyone’s sched- ule,” Pederson said. “It could be worse,” she added.

Coyle considered filming classes at her studio, with all its space, light and materials. “It’s a little more realistic for parents to see you in your environment,” she provided as a reason for doing it at home. Additionally, she was concerned about the germs that may live on surfaces in the studio and decided to play it safe.

To make it even more relatable, Coyle’s kids were also in the videos. “It was a good way to show how the two different ages will manage with what I’m teaching because it was a lot of hands on with my four-year-old, where my seven-year-old was fine on her own,” Coyle said.

Social distancing and school closures felt a bit like the beginning of summer, Hale thought. “The first couple weeks are a total disaster,” she said. Routine goes out the window and the only string of sanity during the summer is sending kids to hang out with their friends for extended periods of time, which is not really an option currently.

“They’re (Max and Hannah) both really social and very active and involved in a lot of stuff,” Hale said.

Being isolated and stuck at home is hard. 

Keeping consistency in some fashion is a bit of a saving grace. “It’s good because we don’t have to cancel (lessons) and get the kids completely out of what their routine is,” Pederson said.

Her kids ask lots of questions, like why they cannot go to the grocery store. Pederson laughed when thinking about what they would remember of this whole situation a month or a year from now.

“Remember when we had the longest spring break ever?” “Remember when you made us wash our hands a zillion times each day?” “Remember when everyone freaked out about toilet paper?”

The normalcy of art and violin classes reminds kids and parents that this will not be the normal forever.

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The Madisonian

65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

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