Thousands of people have turned to Facebook or Instagram to stay in touch with family and friends, while others have used platforms like TikTok and YouTube to express themselves creatively.
The arts and education at Hoyt were no different, making the switch when its doors were closed and programs were canceled due to collection restrictions. The digital curve was somewhat steep, but the staff managed to pull off admirable efforts that resulted in exponential growth in new audiences. The mini-masterpieces, the Shoe Box Parade, as well as the instruction and virtual tours are recognized for having actively engaged over 33,000 people in the past fiscal year.
It’s no surprise then that the arts center is now doing more than embracing digital media. Cassidy Hatch-Tonks joined Hoyt’s staff in July to help develop and expand Hoyt’s digital programming and content.
Until her first interview, the Ellwood City native hadn’t set foot inside the Hoyt. She was somewhat familiar with the commercial arts graduate programs at Lawrence County Career and Technical Center. However, she had not passed the Confluence stadium where the Hoyt runs the local art gallery. While she held several positions as a graphic designer, arts teacher, gallery attendant, and photographer after earning a BFA from Clarion University, she was looking for an opportunity to contribute her youth and enthusiasm to near from home.
It was this combination of experiences that caught the attention of Hoyt executive director Kimberly Koller-Jones.
“When it comes to hiring, it’s often more than what looks good on paper,” Koller-Jones said. “Cassidy was not only friendly and open, but she embodied a compassion for people whose differences can often make others uncomfortable. This means a lot to an organization that is making a concerted effort to embrace diversity, equity and inclusion.
Prior to the Hoyt, Hatch-Tonks taught life enriching activities to adults with intellectual and physical disabilities at the McGuire Memorial and New Brighton-based Intermediate Care Center. As part of her work, she introduced clients to new artists and art history with sensory lessons, hand-to-hand activities, and outings to cultural centers and museums. While the job can be tough, Hatch-Tonks refers to the experience with joy.
“They were some of the most endearing people I have ever met,” she said.
Hatch-Tonks has also worked on the marketing team for Abram’s Nation, a company producing sleep equipment for children and adults with special needs, and most recently for Remax Select Realty in the greater Pittsburgh area. She handled brand management for Remax’s partnership with the Pittsburgh Steelers and, yes, met players while coordinating promotions. While she lost that last post due to the pandemic, she gained a husband, marrying McClain Tonks on October 10, 2020.
“We lost our room in August, but rescheduled the reception in McClain’s aunt’s backyard in less than two weeks. The guest list grew from 150 to 35, but it was a perfect day.
In the end, she cut her hair and donated it to charity. While the newlyweds have yet to take their honeymoon, they have adopted a kitten named Rhubarb and are raising a springer spaniel named Atlas from their home in Ellwood City.
“She’s tough, that’s for sure! said Kollar-Jones. “Cassidy didn’t really have time to get her feet wet when she started. We were in the process of launching several new summer programs and had to launch it. It was sink or swim. She swam with the rest of us.
One of his first jobs was to oversee Hoyt’s role in the Summer Playground program, design new print media, and develop new policies and classes for Hoyt’s Digital Media Lab.
Former photography teacher at the Sweetwater Center for the Arts, Hatch-Tonks now offers an eight-week introductory photography course at Hoyt and several workshops exploring the Adobe Creative Suite. Small businesses and / or nonprofits can learn how to use PhotoShop and InDesign to create digital and print ads, while teens can experiment with digital tools for creating digital art.
“My favorite thing about the Hoyts so far is that they walk on foot. They are not just talking about serving the community inclusively, but taking the necessary steps to put those plans into action. I am proud to be part of the team!