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All eyes on art

Downtown campus exhibit sheds light on local causes

 by Ljiljana Ciric
 published on Thursday, September 28, 2006

(Left and below left) Derrick Kempf’s “Overlooking a Teenager” and (below) Howard Bernstein’s “Protective Warrior Spirit” are just a few of the artworks displayed in the “For Our Eyes” exhibit at ASU’s downtown Phoenix campus. /issues/arts/697954
Jeremiah Armenta / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
(Left and below left) Derrick Kempf’s “Overlooking a Teenager” and (below) Howard Bernstein’s “Protective Warrior Spirit” are just a few of the artworks displayed in the “For Our Eyes” exhibit at ASU’s downtown Phoenix campus.
 

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Not every transition goes smoothly.

Studio art senior Jessica Shea wasn't too excited when she first learned that her nonprofit management classes would move to the downtown Phoenix campus this year.

"I am a Tempe student, and it was difficult for me to move to the downtown campus," says Shea, an American humanics national certificate program student.

Shea says she learned to love the idea of moving by working on the "For Our Eyes" exhibit.

"For Our Eyes" is a student-organized art project that serves as a window through which the newly established downtown ASU community can look into issues confronted daily by the social service and nonprofit agencies in downtown Phoenix.

The exhibit debuted in August and is installed across five floors in the new University Center building at the downtown campus.

Interdisciplinary studies senior Malissa Geer, who organized the art project, says it's a way to integrate the college with the community.

"The project was a way of helping our students engage with the communities and see their mission and volunteer opportunities, as well as for the [ASU] institution, as a new member of this community, to validate the work that has been done here forever," Geer says.

A mother losing her son to AIDS, a homeless youth and a grieving child are just some of the images explored in the art pieces. Artists as young as five years old address issues including poverty, homelessness and domestic violence. The artwork's variety spans from graffiti, children's art and collage pieces on a glass to photographs, woodwork and paintings.

Geer, who has a background in working for nonprofits, envisioned the art project last May. This mother-of-two and returning student saw the opportunity to introduce the ASU social work and public affairs students to the surrounding nonprofit agencies, ease the anxiety about the move and make the transition smoother for both parties.

"It was a way to allow our students and faculty to remember all these great organizations that are so close to downtown campus and hopefully to encourage all of us to remember why we chose our [career] paths," Geer says.

Geer, Shea and Marisela Macias (a mentee of Geer's who works with local nonprofits) contacted around 25 agencies, selecting them by proximity to downtown campus. They also looked into involving agencies that had ASU alumni involved.

Sixteen of the agencies responded, including Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center, Arizona Lost Boys Center, Valle Del Sol and Hospice of the Valley.

Shea says she is most touched by the stories and images provided by the Aide to the Adoption of Special Kids nonprofit agency.

"I have always been interested in adoption as an option for me in the future, and I was even more truly inspired when I heard and saw via photography the amazing stories of how adoption positively transformed the lives of children and parents alike," Shea says.

Neighborhood Ministries Art Center, an outreach program to low-income families and at-risk children in Phoenix, is another agency that is taking part in the exhibit.

Noel Barto, the Neighborhood Ministries arts director, says "For Our Eyes" is a great opportunity for the Ministries' kids to share their artwork with the ASU community.

"It encouraged them to share their stories in a new light and educate others about their experiences," Barto says.

"For Our Eyes" will become a part of First Friday Art walks on Nov. 3, when all the nonprofit agencies will be honored along with the artists.

While touring the exhibit, the children and young artists will have the chance "to see that their voice is being heard on the hallways of Arizona State University," Geer says. "[It] will be like a dream come true."

Geer adds that she hopes the exhibit will encourage people to embrace the beauty in Phoenix and the endless opportunities that are within miles of the new ASU campus.

"I wanted to validate every organization that is doing great work," Geer says. "The University is a great addition to the community, and this community is so rich. What they are already doing helps us see and understand what this community has to offer."

Reach the reporter at: ljiljana.ciric@asu.edu.



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