EATON —In conjunction with the Preble County Juvenile Court, the Preble County Art Center started the Preble County Youth for Public Art program, leading to the creation of several pieces of art located around Preble County.
According to PCCA Executive Director Vicky Fanberg, the program has designed and painted a mural located in the Juvenile Court office, totem poles currently on display at the Preble County Courthouse, and painted a mural on the back of the Art Center, as well as other, smaller projects.
The program takes teens in the seventh grade and up, based upon referrals from Juvenile Court and school administrators and officials according to Fanberg.
The program has been running for two and half years according to Fanberg, who says they can accept classes of seven to 12 students to take eight to 12 week courses in painting and other forms of art, including sculpturing.
The students come to the art center twice a week after school for two and a half hours where they paint, draw and even share a “family style” dinner, according to Fanberg. Over dinner, they are able to converse about art and everyday life.
Program Coordinator Holly Steele has been in charge of preparing the meals for the students, but Fanberg says the program hopes to have students make their own meals to learn basic culinary arts in the coming classes.
The program also provides transportation for those who need it, and is able to pick up students from school and take them home afterward.
Fanberg noted the geographical size of Preble County can make transportation a challenge, so any help from guardians is appreciated.
For the art projects, the students are given parameters but are able to decide on the theme of the project. Fanberg explained, the students were given the parameters of clay totem poles but choose the theme of animals and faces for the project at the courthouse.
Fanberg said while the program originally started as a partnership with Preble County Juvenile Court, it has since been opened to schools to act as a form of “intervention before intervention.”
The program does not track or measure improvement, but instead offers students a chance to learn life skills.
“A lot of what we are building is empathy,” Fanberg said, noting results are hard to measure. “We are fostering these ideas of community building and teamwork, but we are really getting at empathy. Getting them to understand each other so maybe they make kinder, nicer, smarter decisions in their own life because they realize whom they are affecting.”
Fanberg said the program does more than just teach art for those in attendance.
“They are learning life skills, not just how to make art. We are teaching them how to make art and about the materials and techniques but the bigger thing is about socialization, teamwork and compromise,” she said.
“They are being collaborative, learning teamwork — they have chance to learn, to put their problems aside and accomplish something together,” Fanberg continued.
“The biggest thing we can provide for them is that it’s a safe, fun place.” Fanberg stated. “The only thing we are expecting out of them is to be kind and try be engaged. We are not asking a certain performance, there is not an ‘A’ or passing grade — you just have to be yourself and be willing to explore what we are doing and that is really on your own terms. There is no right or wrong way to get to the end result.”
Fanberg also hopes to eventually start a second program for any youth who wants to make public art pieces for the community.
Fanberg said she hopes the next project for the group can be painting murals on the windows of empty storefronts throughout the county to help those communities find businesses for the empty spaces.