May 2021 Employee of the Month – Skye McFarland

Skye McFarland was named Employee of the Month for May 2021. Skye has gone above and beyond her job description, not just this month, but since March of 2020, when the McKinney Center had to cancel classes and begin re-thinking and creating ways to meet our mission which is to provide educational programming to the community.

Yes, Skye’s job is “outreach” but there is nothing in her current job description about marketing, taking photos and video, editing video, managing social media, or designing graphics and posters.  Skye has gone above and beyond her job description by taking on these duties with excitement and dedication.

When COVID-19 hit in the spring of 2019, many of the fairs and festivals that Skye usually attended were cancelled.  Skye was instrumental in quickly planning new educational programming that met the mission of the McKinney Center.  She helped create hundreds of “take and make” craft kits for Washington County school children who were doing school virtually, each week through the end of the school year.  She helped do the same for many of the movie nights downtown. Skye filmed instructional, “how to” videos for the take and make crafts which were extremely popular with the school kids.

In March of 2020, Ballad Health reached out to the McKinney Center and asked us to help them recruit people who could make masks for their staff.  During that time, PPE was scares for health care professionals and home-made masks needed to meet specific specifications.  Skye was able to help by creating a graphic and sending the request out through our social media platforms.  Our friends at Ballad were very grateful for the assistance.

Before schools closed, Jules was conducting a play program at Jonesborough Middle School.  Although we could not complete the program, Skye was able to publish 14 poems that the students in the program created.  This provided a way for us to celebrate the student’s work and to showcase it to their friends, families, and teachers.  The student poetry posts reached over 1.1K viewers.

Skye developed our online, “Try-It Challenges,” where we challenged individuals to re-create works of art at home.  This provided educational information about specific artists or specific types of art.  Participants would email or message us photos of their artwork.  The artwork was displayed online for a week and would be voted on by viewers.  Winners would receive a gift certificate from a downtown business. This program again, helped provide art education for students at home, and adults!  And, it also helped downtown business and traffic.  Try-It Challenges received over 11K views on Facebook.

Skye has worked to capture art demos and photos throughout the year to again, provide education programming and to also showcase our community artists to help them as well.  We did two online exhibitions with Carol McCreary and Beverly Jenkins. Skye took all the photos for these web-based exhibitions. We also did a hybrid exhibition with the Heritage Alliance with their collection of Historic Quilts.  Individuals could call and schedule their private viewing of the exhibition or watch the exhibition opening video that Skye filmed.  This video has been watched 6.2K times.

The Juried Art exhibition in the fall of 2020, was another hybrid event where people could schedule a private viewing or watch Skye’s opening video.  The Juried Art video was watched 1.3 K times.  These are events where we would normally expect 125 – 200 people to be in attendance and instead we reached thousands.

Skye became our photographer and videographer during 2020,  using her own equipment much of the time. She made our online Story Time video possible each week.  She has helped secure different and diverse book readers each week focusing on different themes including, Black History Month, Women’s History Month, etc.  We have read over 200 books during this program and we have had well over 10,000 viewers since March 2020.

We knew that it would be important to really push fall 2020 classes in order to see good registration numbers.  Skye posts for classes almost every day.  Sometimes she creates social media ads for 2 or 3 classes each day.  We also did a recorded video where I explained all the COVID precautions we would be taking during fall classes to help parents and students feel comfortable coming back to the McKinney Center.  Skye’s video had over 10.5 K views.  Skye also took live video footage during the fall open house reaching 1.3K views.  Our registration numbers for fall classes were great considering COVID numbers were going up at that time in our region.

We could not do in-person student exhibitions at the end of the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters and Skye used her talents to create a video featuring photos of the student’s artwork and classes in way that we could still celebrate our student’s hard work and accomplishments in a safe way. This took a great deal of communication with teachers, and taking almost 150 photographs of student art.  While we can normally fit around 200 friends and family in the auditorium for this event, the fall student video had 1.1K views, reaching more people than we could have ever done in person.   

Skye is also dedicated to making sure our programming is accessible to everyone in the community.  Readers for our StoryTime program are a diverse group of people from many walks of life.  Skye created the Conversations that Matters program which features two individuals from the community each month as they recount their personal experiences and stories.  This is an amazing program focusing on diversity in the community.  This program has reached over 4,000 viewers since its inception.

Skye had to re-envision this year’s MLK Day of Service.  While we are normally out in the community doing a project, we opted to do an online program and food drive for the JAMA food pantry.  Skye received over 700 pounds of food for the pantry, over $300 in monetary donations, and the online program had over 1.6 viewers.  Our July 4th online program was a partnership with the Heritage Alliance and featured actors reciting excerpts of important documents throughout history.  This video reached almost 2,000 people.

The McKinney Center building turned 80 years old last year.  Originally, we hoped to plan a Booker T. Washington alumni reunion but had to cancel these plans due to COVID.  Instead, Skye put together historic photos and excerpts from oral histories that have been gathered from Booker T. alumni and into a video reaching 1.8K viewers.

Due to the inability to really plan, many of the MKC programming last year was spontaneous and online.  While the Marketing Team was always helpful and supportive, it made more sense to have the MKC staff coordinate social media efforts during the height of the pandemic.  Thank goodness Skye had the skills to do this work during the pandemic and while one of the Marketing Team’s critical positions was vacant.   The fact that the MKC had someone focused on social media marketing made a huge impact on the Center’s ability to reach thousands of people during a year where we could not have as many people coming through our doors.  By the spring of 2021 our classes registrations were back up and higher than ever, and our online reach and engagement has grown exponentially.

Keeping community engagement up on social media has been critical during a year of limited visitation and physical events.  We are hearing wonderful comments and feedback regarding all our online programming and we could not have done it without Skye.  Even during a normal year, we could never fit as many people in our building as we have been able to reach online.  As things return to normal the McKinney Center will still maintain many of the online programs that we started in 2020, all thanks to Skye, her creativity and dedication.

Thank you, Skye McFarland! You are appreciated!