An ePIFanyNow.org Story For many people, art can be therapeutic; something about using paint, clay or other materials to create something new and express feelings brings about a calm that allows the artist to forget about the frustrations of the day. For REACH Studio Art Center, students Jocelyn Wheeker, Ripley Olson, Tamara Hunt and Cynthia Terry, expressing themselves is only part of it; these four high school students are using art to make a statement about creating a cleaner environment for everyone. All four of the girls have been coming to REACH for years, and they all share a passion for creating art and raising awareness for environmental issues. Many of the projects that they work on involve going out into the community and creating murals and other art. Many of these projects promote awareness for issues important to the artists. Previous projects that the group has worked on include making a statue out of recycled materials for the Lansing Board of Water and Light and creating murals that are displayed throughout REO Town. All of the artists have the opportunity to have their work showcased, but bringing their vision to fruition can be difficult at times. They must first present their ideas and explain why their art should be displayed. “If your art becomes a mural, that’s pretty memorable,” said Wheeker. “One of my graffiti murals is up in REO Town right now. We pass it every day.” The girls have busy lives outside of REACH, too; Wheeker is on a dance team and works with horses, Terry has volunteered with the Teen Studio, Olson is on a competitive swim team and Hunt does competitive cheer and works part-time at a daycare. Even with their busy schedules, they make time to come to REACH to continue working to raise awareness for the issues that are important to them. “Damage to the environment is a real threat,” said Olson. “It may not seem like an important thing, but it is.” Their passion for creating a cleaner environment shines through in their art. Currently, the girls are working on a project to promote awareness for how littering affects the environment. “Some people are careless enough to think that the Earth will always be here,” added Terry. “But we don’t know that with the way we treat it now.” Aside from promoting environmental issues, the girls all agree that giving back to the community is incredibly important. “[Giving back] gives you a new perspective on the world around you,” said Hunt. “It’s how we grow and figure things out. I definitely think it’s important to get that new outlook; we need that forward motion.” The girls also provided some advice for other teens who are interested in giving back to their community, but may not know how. “Try to raise awareness in your own way,” said Olson. “Use your strengths to give back.” Do some research and find out what groups are near you, added Hunt. There are a lot of different groups out there that are doing a lot of different things to help out the community.
Alicia Pilmore is a Communications Specialist at M3 Group and Editor for the Capital Area Women's Lifestyle Magazine. She loves writing, wine tasting and spoiling her cat, Pishi.