Monday, August 27, 2007
Student runs summer art program for high-risk girls
|CamieLee Frasher ran a summer program for a student involved with Alternatives For Girls. The participants created installation art pieces that were displayed at the Detroit Industrial Projects, an art gallery in Detroit. (Photo courtesy of Andrea Eis, chair of Art and Art History)|
By Rebecca Wyatt Thomas, OU Web Writer
This summer, for a group of young high-risk girls from Detroit, something they probably thought was impossible happened. With the help of OU student CamieLee Frasher, the girls created installation art pieces that were displayed at the Detroit Industrial Projects, an art gallery in Detroit. The girls, who are participants in a prevention program called Alternatives For Girls, teamed up with Frasher for the summer program.
“I wanted to have a unique art exhibit for these girls,” Frasher said. “The five girls in the program came to the gallery for three consecutive weeks and I taught them about contemporary art and art installation. They each started working on their own wall space and were allowed whatever they wanted with that space.”
The girls who participated in the program included three 13-year-olds and two 15-year-olds. Under the theme “Self Expression: Voices,” the girls used the art to tell their story and let their voices be heard. The result was an eclectic expression of their lives and experiences, which ran from future career aspirations all the way to a hope for peace. Frasher helped the girls learn the basics of art and compositions and decide how they wanted to express themselves on the wall. The girls used paint and found objects to create the installation artwork.
“With the exception of one girl who had taken a previous art class, none of the girls had any art experience before this workshop. For them to come in with little or no experience, they did a phenomenal job. They went from sketching their ideas in notebooks during the first days of class to transforming these ideas onto the large warehouse walls, which was extremely challenging,” Frasher said. “And it was a big challenge for me. I didn’t know what to expect the first day. But gradually I got to know the girls and quickly adapted the curriculum that I had already prepared to what they actually were capable of doing. It was also very challenging for the girls. Often times professional artists are overwhelmed with a blank wall or canvas when they begin a painting and sometimes it takes two or three weeks for them to come up with something. These girls had a much smaller timeframe.”
Detroit Industrial Projects hosted an opening for the girls and their families on Saturday, July 28. The exhibition ran until Aug. 11.
“I knew this exhibit would be a unique community art exhibit and I felt it was a way where we could reach out to the kids in the community while at the same time showcasing what they are capable of if given the opportunity.” Frasher said.
The workshop was an idea Frasher had last summer, and she began planning it in late 2006 while working and taking classes. She applied for the Marion Adams Bunt Fund Scholarship, which provides funding for extracurricular projects, as a means to support the program.
“I didn’t receive any credit for school for this project. I did it because I thought the kids, as well as myself, could benefit from it. I started meeting more of the local artists that are involved with the gallery and the local art scene. I started talking to them about the possibilities for future shows and they said it is exciting to see what kids can do because their imaginations are so active and uninhibited,” Frasher said.
Taking on the workshop was a great opportunity for Frasher, a studio art major specializing in art education and who has always had a passion for working with kids and also for art.
Frasher worked with Valorie Evans at Alternatives For Girls to select the girls for the program. Jeanette Strezinski from the Detroit Industrial Project helped her set up guest lectures from local artists in Detroit and was a key influence in teaching Frasher how to curate a show.
“Artists came in and visited and gave the girls input and advice for their composition and helped them with technique,” Frasher said. “We had tours of the artists’ studios, and the artists told them what it’s like to be an artist. The Michigan Glass Company demonstrated glass blowing for us as well.”
Frasher said she saw the influence the program has had on them. They were able to express themselves and have confidence in their work, Frasher explained. She said the girls all have high goals for themselves in the future and she’s excited to have had an impact on their lives.
One of the girls, Annamarie, created a wall with many different images that represented her life.
“To me, the butterflies on the wall mean life. Life takes you wherever you want. Butterflies go wherever they want. Twix was a nickname that a friend thought up for me. It’s the fun parts of life. I wanted to write it in graffiti to reflect growing up in the city,” Annamarie wrote in her artist statement. “The purple flower looks unfinished on some petals because it shows how my life is not yet done. I still have a long way to go. The birds at the top-left corner of the wall represent one of my favorite stores — Hollister. The lyrics written on the wall reflect people’s creativity. Creativity will take you a long way in life. Now that my art is complete, I’ve learned I can be very creative.”
Frasher, along with the Neal Davis Gallery in Royal Oak and Detroit Industrial Projects, is helping to make sure the girls have something to take away from the experience.
The gallery owner from Neal Davis came in to take pictures of the walls and make a brochure of the exhibit. They were also helping to put portfolios together for the girls.
Frasher would like to see the program continue in the future, possibly reaching out to more community organizations.