By Sahara Lyon
The author Alice Walker once shared, “If you fall in love with the imagination, you understand that it is a free spirit. It will go anywhere, and it can do anything.” What better way to nurture imagination than through the arts? For many years, COCA ran an Imagination Station, a large mailbox located outside the COCA building, filled with craft grab bags, art supplies, and information about how COCA supports Tallahassee’s arts and culture community. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the station was used to safely distribute art materials to families and teachers. However, after years of use and exposure to the elements, the Imagination Station fell into disrepair. Still, COCA staff knew this was an essential resource to bring back to the community. This past summer, they spent time repairing, revamping, and restocking, and now, the Imagination Station is up and better than ever.
The concept of the Imagination Station is not unique in and of itself. Operating similar to a Help Shelf, Little Free Library, or public pantry, this mailbox serves community members by providing art supplies and materials. People can take what they need, return what they don’t, and leave donations as able. COCA’s Public Art and Exhibitions Manager, Sam Joslin, worked extensively on the project throughout the summer. Joslin stated, “Providing a public source for art supplies and art education resources highlights and realizes the importance of access to creative means from a young age.”
When COCA moved into its new office on Railroad Avenue earlier this year, the Imagination Station was uprooted from its old location and required extensive restoration before reinstallation. The base showed significant wear, and the sun-bleached mailbox was rusted with paint flaking off. To reopen it again to public use, the mailbox would need a new coat of paint, new decals, and a new rolling base to move it inside and outside of the building. Joslin, tasked with the bulk of the renovation, remarked, “I started by stripping off the old paint and pressure washing the surface clean. The original mailbox head then went to one of our lovely interns for re-painting in our signature COCA orange. In the meantime, I used leftover pieces of lumber from previous home renovation projects to cut and build a new stand and platform. We decided to attach the mailbox to a platform and add casters so that it could be easily moved around the office building on wheels.”
The “lovely intern” Joslin referenced is Camryn Castellano, COCA’s Arts Education Intern.astellano is a senior at Florida State University, and she interned with COCA for over six months, helping with regularly rotating programming and special projectevamping the Imagination Station was one of those projects, and it required a lot of work. Castellano prepped and stuffed all the craft grab bags before moving to the mailbox itself. She applied primer before coating it with the COCA orange, restoring the Imagination Station beyond its former glory. Castellano noted, “I was so happy to be able to help COCA with bringing back the Imagination Station. I think it’s very important to introduce the concept of expression through art to kids since it strengthens their imagination and gives them an outlet to express themselves in healthy ways. This project shows the limitlessness of imagination and what art can be.”
When asked about the importance of the Imagination Station, Joslin stated, “Creativity is not something that should be hindered or limited. We want to provide parents and teachers the means to support their young students.”Students, parents, teachers, arts lovers, and others are welcome to take what they need from the mailbox, spreading ‘imagination’ throughout our community at no cost to the public.
The Imagination Station is currently located inside the COCA office at Domi Station, with plans to place it outside the office as the weather gets cooler. Joslin noted, “With the location of the Imagination Station at the COCA office, it also provides participants the opportunity to engage with COCA and learn more about our organization while accessing these resources.” The station is currently stocked with craft grab bags, art supplies, materials, and information about COCA. Swing by the COCA office and pick something up to ignite your imagination. Happy creating!
Imagination Station Hours: Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm, COCA office at Domi Station, 914 Railroad Ave.