Cynthia Phillips-Sabla

Cynthia Phillips-Sabla

For Cynthia Phillips-Sabla, Director of Indiana State University’s Community School of the Arts (CSA), the Covid-19 pandemic has been a challenge, but has also created new opportunities to interact with the community.

When Covid-19 hit last year, Phillips-Sabla remembers halting most of the School’s programs. But, as an artist and an individual who thrives on sharing her love of the arts with the community, Phillips-Sabla sought to bring art to people by teaching her first-ever virtual paint class in 2020.

“I started creating videos of the paint classes by attaching my cellphone to a microphone stand, and filming myself as I talked through the painting steps,” she said. “It caught on, so I contacted (the Office of Information Technology at Indiana State) and they helped me find a document camera and got me set up.” Phillips-Sabla says it is now much easier to record the video classes. “Now all we do is email participants a welcome letter (with a link to the video) and they have the class for 30 days to be able to complete the painting at their own pace.”

The switch to more virtual classes has also allowed Phillips-Sabla to expand her instructor pool to include teachers across the nation. The CSA designs the class and works with an experienced individual in that craft or field to create an instructional video. When the classes are ready, participants register, pick up their supplies, and receive the video via e-mail. Those at CSA are excited about the unlimited possibilities this format can offer to people in our community who want to explore new and different creative outlets.

“We want to try and be mindful of the community and offer classes to fit people’s needs and wants.  We try to do this in a way that offers them the opportunity to have an outlet that allows them to be creative and stay positive,” Phillips-Sabla said. “The success of online classes has been mostly with the arts because we can create art kits the participants can pick up and use as they create, even pausing the video whenever they went. They often take photos and send pictures of their completed projects back to us, which we love to see.”

This March, the Community School of the Arts brought back its first in-person classes with adjustments, including smaller class sizes and larger spaces. Classes such as Stained Glass making, part of their Art Workshop Series, were taught with a limited number of participants to maintain social distancing while still having that in-person experience. There are plans to conduct annual camps this year, including summer camps in June and July. A gardening class is also in the works, and will be available in-person or virtually. Private art and music lessons continue to be offered through the CSA.

“I really like that our classes are now open to more people who may never have experienced Indiana State or done anything creative before.” Phillips-Sabla says. She notes that some people can be nervous about being creative, or creating art with other people in the same space. “Even as things get back to ‘normal’, I still plan to keep the virtual classes going so we can continue to share the excitement and satisfaction that comes with creating art with as many people as possible.”

Phillips-Sabla has been pursuing her doctorate in Counseling Education at Indiana State since last July. Her goal is to focus on expressive arts – painting, drawing, play, theater, music – through counseling for children in the foster system.

“I started doing an art therapy program a few years ago, but it was not the right fit. This program, though, lets me concentrate on art as healing,” she said. “I believe the arts can make you feel good and that there is a lot more power in creating art than people realize. I’m excited about where this journey will take me and how it can enhance my role within the Community School of the Arts and working within our community.”

For more information on the Community School of Arts, including upcoming classes and programs, visit