College of Fine Arts and Communications classes allow students to use their artistic abilities to help populations in need
BYU design and art students used their time and skills to fundraise, collect clothing and teach youth and young adults at the Volunteers for America (VOA) Youth Resource Center (YRC) in Salt Lake City last fall.
Students who take Design Lab, taught by Linda Reynolds, and App Creative/Critical Thinking, taught by Joe Ostraff, spend an entire semester using their design knowledge and skill to benefit the community. The classes provide a way for students to get real-world professional and leadership experience while serving alongside volunteer organizations.
“We’re honored that BYU art and design students selected VOA to work with and we’re humbled by the generosity and compassion they’ve shown our clients. The students are indeed ‘difference makers’ and through art have changed and saved lives of youth experiencing homelessness,” said Cathleen Sparrow, the chief development officer of Volunteers of America Utah.
For the Youth Resource Center partnership, students planned and led several different projects to work directly with the clients and support the center financially.
Every student enrolled in the two classes helped teach one of six art workshops at the center. Each workshop focused on helping the clients develop a new skill and create an art project of their own.
Visual Arts major Kara Smith led a workshop on screen printing T-shirts. She said the clients took the class seriously, with one client making an extra shirt for a friend who had to leave early.
“They were just very involved and excited to take part and ownership in the creative process and that inspired me,” Smith said.
The experience benefited the BYU students as well. Ricey Wright, another art major, said, “I believe being able to teach the process of how to make something definitely helps me become a better artist. I am able to reiterate what I know as well as learn from the individual creativity of the participants.
To raise money for the YRC, the students spent a night selling art in Salt Lake City. Artists Brian Kershisnik and Gary Ernest Smith donated artwork, which the students recreated with screen printing and sold. Abby DeWitt, a graphic design student who helped with the print collective, said, “This was an awesome experience because a lot of designers were able to learn the screen-printing process. Then we were able to package, distribute and figure out how to sell a lot of these prints.”
The class also hosted an all-day pop-up shop in BYU’s Harris Fine Arts Center. Each student received $100 as seed money to create a product that would demonstrate their talents and appeal to customers.
“It was a little scary at first because there were rumors floating around about how much had been spent, and everyone was nervous that we wouldn’t make that much back,” said Haley Mosher, a Design Lab student. “But we ended up making a lot of money. It was a great experience for the customers, and we ended up earning a ton of money to donate to the YRC.”
Mosher also led the group in charge of the clothing drive. They created branding for the drive, purposefully designing a concept that would catch the attention of students and encourage them to donate.
“We were told by the Youth Resource Center that these kids want clothes that are cool because they’re going to interviews, they’re going to high school or college, they want to dress nice,” said Mosher. “We wanted to urge people to donate clothes they actually liked and actually wore. We wanted it to be more of an actively giving clothing drive.”
According to Mosher, the branding appealed to BYU students. At the end of the drive, the team filled two 15-passenger vans with donated clothing for the YRC.
Design major Brooke Pathakis said the class showed her how she could use the skills she learned in school to help others. “It’s good to do service, but it’s hard to find those opportunities,” she said. “I usually wouldn’t think of graphic design as ‘service,’ but it really is.”
Mosher appreciated seeing the impact her work had on the YRC and its clients as well as the other students in the class. “It was a win-win,” she said. “We got to be creative in ways we don’t always get to because of class restrictions, but we also knew that our product was going to benefit the YRC.”
The art and design students who participated can now add to their resume that they worked on a large-scale project to serve the community, and they better understand how to use their skills in a philanthropic context. In addition, the Youth Resource Center volunteers and staff say the partnership with the BYU classes has had a positive impact on the youth and young adults who use the shelter’s resources.
“Partnering with BYU’s art and design departments has been an amazing experience for our Homeless Youth Resource Center. It started as a one-time art class and has grown into multiple projects that range from fundraising to in-kind donation drives at BYU’s campus to joining our clients in a collaborative setting. Both student and professors have inspired our clients to express themselves multiple mediums of art,” said Jayme Anderson, the Volunteer Services Director of Volunteers of America Utah.
Funding for the projects came from the Laycock Center for Creativity and Collaboration and the Sorenson Legacy Foundation. The College of Fine Arts and Communications plans to continue the partnership in the future.