Arty Party gives JoCo teens chance to flex creative muscles

Olathe Library teen assistant Kelly Darling works on a project for an Arty Party program. Darling conducts the programs twice a month online.

Olathe Library teen assistant Kelly Darling works on a project for an Arty Party program. Darling conducts the programs twice a month online.

Courtesy photo

Staying home and being socially distant from people can get boring, especially if you’re a kid. To give those young hands something creative to do, the Olathe Public Library has been holding an Arty Party every week.

The program, aimed at kids from sixth to 12th grade, provides a kit of specific art supplies, along with an online video of library teen assistant Kelly Darling demonstrating how to do a particular craft.

Anyone can access the videos on the library’s Facebook page, but only 20 teens can reserve a supply kit for pickup at Indian Creek Library. The kit also comes with a written guide in case teens want to totally get offline for a while.

“I think that the times we’re in are very digital, and with the pandemic it’s even harder to escape that,” Darling said. “It’s really important to let teens use their hands. It’s a really great opportunity for them to decompress.”

The crafts don’t stick to just one genre. Previous projects have included painting a flower pot with a favorite literary or historical character and making a pen cup from a tin can for their home schoolwork space.

Darling doesn’t want kids to feel boxed in by doing exactly what she’s doing, but she wants to provide a foundation they can use to launch their own creativity.

“The goal is to let them be expressive and create. I do give ideas and guidelines if they want, but I don’t love to do art programs that are like paint by numbers,” she said.

That leeway allows kids to customize the project to their interest and skill level.

“I like how they’re not very complicated, but they’re really fun,” said 11-year-old Brooklyn Roberson of Overland Park. “They give us everything that we need, and it gives me something to do.”

The videos offer different types of art for each project.

“I’m trying to explore different mediums with them so they don’t get bored. Maybe the first project was collage, and they didn’t really like that, but maybe they get excited for paint for the second project,” Darling said.

She hopes one day to have the program in person, but for the moment it’s staying online.

“Normally, if we were doing this in person, everybody would share supplies,” she said. “Since we’re in a time where sharing is not caring, (we’re doing) something where we can make sure each kit has everything it needs, whether it’s a small bottle of glue, magazine pages for collage, cups of paint — something that would travel safely.”

One of the November projects will be making a fall garland from old book pages and craft leaves.

“I like how you’re trying something new and how creative you can be,” said 17-year-old Aidan Delancy of Olathe.

Instructing by video is new for Darling. Each video tends to be less than 20 minutes.

“I’m definitely not a professional video-maker. I’m no YouTuber,” she said. “I turn on the camera, and I do a little bit of talking, a little bit of showing.”

She’s taken her lead from public television painter Bob Ross to emphasize to teens “the mentality of ‘there are no mistakes, only happy accidents,’” she said.

It takes her a week or two to come up with each idea, create examples, film a video and make all the kits.

The program is gathering steam, and for the last one, Darling had a waiting list of teens.

“We’ve had a couple send pictures (of their creations). It was really exciting to see them take that bag of supplies and make something that was completely their own,” Darling said.

To sign up for an Arty Party session, visit All the project videos are available at

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