By Krista Wilson
Listen Up Lansing Staff Reporter
Art can make a difference in the lives of students. Just ask 18-year-old Cynthia Terry.
“Coming here has made me who I am today,” said Terry, who participates at the REACH Studio Art Center. “I was in a dark and dim place, and my life didn’t have light until I came here.”
Terry said she was a victim of bullying since kindergarten and the program allowed her to have positive interactions with the people around her because she built friendships with her peers and gained a support system through the staff.
Joy Baldwin, Program Director of REACH said, “The mission here is to make art accessible to everyone. We have programs for people ages two and up.”
“One of our programs, the Teen Open Studio makes students proud of their work and makes them feel capable of doing something great,” said Baldwin.
Said Terry: “What made me happy was the people here at REACH treated me with love and I had an outlet for creative expression,” said Terry.
Art is something where anyone can participate; they don’t have to necessarily be good at it, said one expert.
“Art is primarily about communication and identity,” said Associate Professor of Arts Management at the University of Oregon, John Fenn, “I think one of the big roles art plays in the community is bringing people together because it is inclusive of all people.”
Executive Director Alice Brinkman established REACH in 2003, located at 1804 S. Washington Ave. in Lansing, because the area lacked programs for children.
“There was nothing in Lansing,” said Baldwin. “Now we have an average of 123 people who come a week. A third of them live within five miles of us, some people come from all over, but most are in the neighborhood.”
“Our purpose is about more than just creating art,” said Baldwin, “We’re about building relationships and the longer we build relationships, the more advice and help can be offered to the kids.”
Terry is just weeks shy of turning 19 and she will no longer qualify for the teen program. She has been a student here since 2011 after her child counselor recommended the program.
“This has been a home away from home,” said Terry, “I’m really going to miss this place.”
Fenn said, “Art can certainly be a measure of the health of a community because it serves as an element in communication, bringing multiple perspectives from multiple people.”
“Things that the students are going through come out and we have adults who can mentor them and help them through it. We had a homeless kid before whose father was in jail and the student painted a beautiful picture,” said Baldwin. “Things like having their work shown in galleries can motivate them and really keep their attention on something positive in their life.”
Dan Nunez, a local artist who collaborates with REACH said, “I’m here to really just inspire the kids. I admit I get to do all the fun stuff.”
Nunez said he has worked with the children of REACH on murals downtown, a float for the Silver Bells parade, and recently an 18-foot bottle sculpture that will be shown at Impression 5 Science Center.
Terry said her favorite project to work on was called Photo Voice, where she took pictures of nature and animals.
REACH is run out of a building that was abandoned prior to its establishment.
“We really revitalized the building and helped with community development,” said Baldwin, “Neighbors thanked us for doing something positive in the community because they worried squatters may start living in the building.”
Baldwin said the students go on field trips and contribute art around the community; it’s not just about making art, “It’s really full circle.”
Barb Whitney, executive Director of Lansing Art Gallery, said, “People are always welcomed at the Lansing Art Gallery for free, we never charge people to see public art.”
The gallery, established in 1965 by Judith Leepa, is located on 119 N. Washington Square in downtown Lansing.
Whitney said the gallery is an opportunity for artists and people in the community to come together and engage with one another.
“For some reason people find coming to a gallery intimidating; they call and ask what to wear, and what time to come because they don’t know what to expect,” said Whitney. “Anyone is welcome to come to the Lansing Art Gallery during the hours we are open.”
Whitney said, “We’re about bringing art all over the city; we put public art where people eat lunch, where they walk on the sidewalk, or waiting at their appointment.”
An upcoming project the gallery is working on is revitalizing old newspaper kiosks around Lansing, said Whitney.
“The kiosks will feature the work of different Michigan artists on the street,” said Whitney, “This is a way to bring public art right to the people.”
Judy Walton, a Lansing resident, said the only art she engages in within the community is attending concerts or film festivals because they offer entertainment.
Walton said she was unaware of the art programs Lansing had to offer, and would like to get her children more involved in the city’s recreational programs.
“Besides the concerts and festivals I attend, public art is something that I never paid much attention to,” said Walton ,”But I think it’s because, like so many other people, I’m busy and don’t have much time to acknowledge or appreciate it.”
Baldwin said that REACH receives funding from State Farm Youth Advisory, Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the city of Lansing, the Capital Region Community Foundation, and from numerous grants that they applied for.
Whitney said the gallery receives the bulk of their funding from grant money at the city, county and state level.
“The Michigan State University Federal Credit Union sponsors our youth art education program,” said Whitney, “And our upcoming kiosk project will be funded by our Patronicity crowd funding campaign where we raised $7,500.”
“Art programs get funding through grants at the state level, local funding, foundations, donations, and crowd-funding at the community level is becoming more popular,” said Fenn.
Josh Holliday, program manager of Arts Council of Greater Lansing said, “We give out about $250,000 each year to different art programs in the area.”
Holliday said the art programs use the money for different things like promotion, public art, upcoming projects, and community development.
The funds that we get comes from a combination of state dollars, our endowment, the Ingham County Board of Commissioners and other sources, said Holliday.
Holliday said the determining factors in what art programs get funding are based on the application process where a panel screens and scores applications based on factors like their proposal.