Why Open Space?
Open Space Education was founded in 2021 in response to the growing need for equitable access to nature, art education, and alternative modes of learning for Richmond youth. The program was created by Director Blythe King, who saw firsthand the positive impact of taking classes outside while teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recognizing the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on low-income communities and communities of color, Open Space Education formed a partnership with Richmond Public Schools (RPS), where 100% of students are eligible for free meals and 92% are from communities of color. Our programs provide access to nature, art education, and alternative modes of learning at no cost to families, doubling the amount of time RPS students spend exposed to art education per week.
Research has shown disparities in access to visual arts experiences along lines of race and income, with BIPOC and low-income students being the most deprived of a sound arts education. Open Space Education aims to address this issue by providing access to arts experiences for students in disadvantaged communities, helping to fill in the educational and generational health gaps not currently being met.
Our curriculum is based on the inquiry of whether we are a part of nature or separate from nature, serving as a jumping-off point for students to connect to the natural world and each other through creativity. With a focus on enhancing creative, intuitive, socioemotional, and leadership skills, Open Space Education offers an antidote to increased stress, anxiety, excessive screen time, and reduced socialization.
With the vision of every young person experiencing a sense of place and having access to the benefits of being in nature, Open Space Education is working towards creating a more equitable and connected future for our youth and the planet.
“Fantastic programming and inclusivity! The open and safe space environment has been a phenomenal experience for my child.” —Open Space parent
"This class calms me down and makes me feel better about myself." —Open Space student