Creating Connection, From Afar

When the pandemic hit, 916 Ink rapidly converted its in-person writing classes for Sacramento youth to a virtual environment. In live workshops for seven different cohorts, students responded to writing prompts, shared their work, and received positive feedback from teaching artists and their own peers.

“Even when operating in a digital space, there’s no substitute for personalized attention and human connection. Many parents expressed that these sessions were the most social interaction their child received during those first isolating months of the pandemic,” said Ian Hadley, 916 Ink’s Executive Director.

During a global pandemic, arts engagement and connection is essential. Creative pursuits have a positive impact on emotional wellbeing. According to Hadley, they can help young people cope with emotional, family, and school-related challenges—especially critical in a time of school closures and physical distancing.

“The ripple effects of the pandemic will be immense if we cannot find ways to
continue to connect with our students,” says Hadley. “Young people are living through trauma due to the pandemic.” Arts and cultural organizations that were awarded grants from the Relief Fund — including 916 Ink, Calidanza, Celebration
Arts, and Studio T Dance, among others — swiftly adapted their programming online, mobilizing digital platforms as places of connection and creativity, helping
reduce feelings of anxiety and loneliness for their clients.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 916 Ink has aimed to ensure education and youth development stay top-of-mind for policymakers as social distancing and remote learning remain in place. The organization has also worked with 250 students through its virtual writing camps, the largest number of summer participants in its history.

Even after the pandemic, Hadley sees virtual workshops as an opportunity to grow the organization’s impact. “I can say with 100% certainty that virtual offerings will be part of what 916 Ink provides in the future,” he said. “They improve access for some who may have not been able to interact with us in the past.”