When those in need arrive at Baxter Cafe & Catering to pick up weekend meals for their children Saturday, April 4, they’ll also receive a decorated paper bag filled with art supplies.

In collaboration with the cafe, Raboin and Francis Law Firm and the Brainerd American Legion, The Crossing Arts Alliance is assembling 200 creativity kits for kids ages 14 years old and younger. Each paper bag used to hold the supplies is painted with an original piece of art from a local artist. In addition to the colorful artistic talents of Crossing Arts Executive Director Lisa Jordan and her daughter Erin, local artist Mark Christy painted 30 lifelike images of animals on the bags.

Avery Jordan, son of Lisa Jordan, poses with some of the 200 painted paper bags to be filled with art supplies and distributed alongside free meals Saturday April 4, at Baxter Cafe & Catering in Baxter. Submitted photo
Avery Jordan, son of Lisa Jordan, poses with some of the 200 painted paper bags to be filled with art supplies and distributed alongside free meals Saturday April 4, at Baxter Cafe & Catering in Baxter. Submitted photo

Each kit will contain a set of crayons and a coloring sheet featuring the “You Betcha” mural in downtown Brainerd, along with a variety of other materials such as mosaic stickers, pine cones, mini pompoms, seashells and googly eyes.

“I think it’s a scary, confusing time for kids and their schedules are all disrupted,” Jordan said by phone Tuesday. “I just want to be able to bring a little joy. That’s what art does for me, that’s what it does for the kids, and I love to see that happen for others.”

Jordan said she’s also heard from area teachers who’ve expressed some of their students do not have art supplies at home and with the closure of school buildings they no longer have access to those stocked in classroom cabinets.

“Even if it’s as simple as a box of crayons, a coloring sheet, mixed media stuff, whatever we can get into their hands, you know, kids will make art out of anything,” Jordan said. “...There’s not a lot we can do right now. And this was something that we can do.”

Some of the 30 bags painted by lakes area artist Mark Christy. The bags will be filled with art supplies and given to children in need Saturday, April 4, as part of the weekend free meal distribution at Baxter Cafe & Catering in Baxter.
Some of the 30 bags painted by lakes area artist Mark Christy. The bags will be filled with art supplies and given to children in need Saturday, April 4, as part of the weekend free meal distribution at Baxter Cafe & Catering in Baxter.

Christy said painting the bags was a way for him to volunteer his time to the community while he is no longer able to work due to the global pandemic of COVID-19. Painting the bags is a bit of a departure from his typical artwork, which includes creating things from antique metals and barnwood, for example.

“It’s not what I’m known for, for my art and they’re basic drawings,” Christy said. “They take about 25 minutes to 40 minutes each to draw. … I’m just doing it for fun and doing it because it brings some value to the community and Crossing Arts.”

Christy is humble about what he describes as “basic drawings,” but the bags themselves are stunning in their realistic detail. One shows a vibrant pumpkinseed sunfish bubbling up to the water’s surface. Another features a colorful snake with its forked tongue extended from its mouth. A frog, shark, mouse, skunk, polar bear, fox and even a triceratops all make appearances.

“People have been concerned when I’ve been posting them on Facebook, they’re like, all of these kids, they’re going to throw these away. And I’m like, well I don’t care,” Christy said. “That’s not why I made them. What I’m kind of hoping is it keeps the kids busy. … Hopefully they’ll start drawing a little bit more. Maybe it will just give them a little positive outlook.”

Brightly colored monoprints and realistic nature paintings adorn paper bags set to be filled with art supplies for local children in need. The creativity kits will be handed out along with free weekend meals Saturday, April 4, at Baxter Cafe & Catering in Baxter. Submitted photo
Brightly colored monoprints and realistic nature paintings adorn paper bags set to be filled with art supplies for local children in need. The creativity kits will be handed out along with free weekend meals Saturday, April 4, at Baxter Cafe & Catering in Baxter. Submitted photo

Jordan said she is grateful for the contributions of Christy as well as artists from the Brainerd Area Art Guild, who have offered to help sponsor the program going forward into April and will also be decorating bags.

“Yeah, kids might throw them away. … But you know, maybe out of 30 bags, two kids are going to hold that bag and go, ‘Wow, that’s something really special,’” Jordan said. “...Growing up, I didn’t come from a place of privilege, so for someone to give me a unique piece of art and at the age group that we’re serving, I would’ve been like, that would’ve been something really big for me. So I’m hoping, it’s not going to reach everybody in the same way, but I’m hoping that we get a couple of kids who really see the artwork and it sparks something in them.”

If you go

Baxter Cafe, 7788 Fairview Road N., Baxter, will distribute free weekend lunch meals each Saturday as the global pandemic and its effects persist, along with its partner Raboin & Francis Law Firm.

The free meals are available for students younger than 18 years old. Call 218-829-1739 between 8-10:30 a.m. Saturdays to reserve a pickup order, available 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Limited delivery is also available for those who may not have transportation or are otherwise unable to make it to the cafe. Two meals will be provided per student.

Attorney John Raboin reported the volunteer squad has also linked up with the Outreach Program of Brainerd Lakes in Nisswa to distribute packages of three take-home meals to each family. This Saturday, April 4, the distribution will also include creativity kits.

CHELSEY PERKINS may be reached at 218-855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at twitter.com/DispatchChelsey.