Sarah Leavens, Class of 2006
Making A Difference In The Springfield Community
Community service is a requirement for graduation at Wittenberg, but one alumna in particular is taking her love for service a step further. Sarah Leavens '06, a fine arts and English major at Wittenberg, is currently the coordinator of Project Jericho, an arts outreach program that targets at-risk youths of the Springfield and Clark County area, and provides in-depth arts experiences for the children and their families.
Leavens made a presentation at Wittenberg on Oct. 12 in support of an event called YouthVOICE, which was the culmination of a six-week program aimed at teens. Under the direction of Leavens, Professor of Art Jack Mann and art major Eric Bess, class of 2008 from Springfield, Ohio, the teens worked with Wittenberg art students on visual and written art projects every Wednesday and then presented them at the event.
"Throughout the six weeks, participants were given their own studio in Koch Hall as well as a cubby in which to keep their own sketchbook and drawing supplies," Leavens said. "Each week, they worked on sketching and initial large drawings, often working one-on-one with Wittenberg students to develop how to illustrate their world for the community to see."
"We decided to title the six-week module Street Art," Bess said. "We wanted to stay away from the term graffiti and the negative connotation it possesses. During the first week, I put together a slideshow through which I displayed images of different types of graffiti. I tried to keep these images within a broad spectrum of genres in an attempt to keep the kids open-minded.
"So, I included images from the sidewalk chalk artists, a wall muralist, some old High Renaissance ceiling paintings like that of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel and modern-day typical graffiti."
Michael Cline, a professional photographer, volunteered his time to capture the entire process on film, as well as headshots of each student artist to be displayed at the opening of the exhibit. Wittenberg Assistant Professor of Psychology Stephanie Little and five of her students also volunteered their time, working as mentors to the participants.
Upon the conclusion of the six-week program, the student participants were able to keep their sketchbooks and pencils after gaining a great deal from the experience of working in a college environment and having the opportunity to express themselves artistically in a public forum.
"As teens who may sometimes struggle to be heard, they were also very proud to be honored as the artists at Friday's reception, with their voice exhibited for everyone to see," Leavens said.
Overall, YouthVOICE was a rewarding experience for the students and volunteers alike.
"Both the Springfield and Wittenberg communities joined together in this process to an inspiring end," Leavens said. "The art exhibit opening was attended by more than 100 patrons, community members and students, and we consider it a success all around."
Project Jericho is a collaborative effort between the Clark State Community College Performing Arts Center and the Clark County Department of Job and Family Services, as well as the Turner Foundation and the Ohio Arts Council.
Click here for more information on Project Jericho.
Written By: Rachel Morgan '08
Photo By: Matt Cline