BY MARY WICOFF
Using paint, clay, cameras, computers and other means, young people channeled their feelings and messages into their artwork during the past few months.
Those pieces of art will be displayed for the first time from 1-4 p.m. Sunday at Danville Area Community College in Vermilion Hall, Room 306.
Teenagers from 10 Vermilion County high schools, Kenneth D. Bailey Academy, College Express at DACC, and Young Women Aware contributed health-based art projects for the ninth Arts and Health Festival. It’s presented by I Sing the Body Electric, an outreach program of Presence United Samaritans Medical Center’s Foundation.
The festival is free and open to the public. As in previous years, a panel of judges will critique all of the completed projects, and the winners will be announced at 3:30 p.m.
About 150 pieces will be on display. The high school students were challenged to develop creative, artistic projects that combat health risks for themselves, their peers, younger students, and the community in general.
The students explored the issues of alcohol, drugs, teen pregnancy, body image, bullying and depression, all of which were identified in the 2012 I Sing the Body Electric health survey as risk factors of utmost concern to them.
However, some went beyond that, and introduced topics not covered in the survey, said Cassie Keister, tour coordinator with I Sing the Body Electric. For example, some students tackled issues such as Asperger syndrome, autism, anger management, cerebral palsy and chewing tobacco.
Referring to the exhibit, Keister said, “I think it’s amazing. The kids are talented. It’s a great well-rounded collection with new and innovative topics.”
Dottie McLaughlin, program coordinator, agreed that the exhibit has some unique entries this year.
“The projects are just astounding,” she said. “Every year we are astounded by the students’ candor and amazed by their creativity.”
For example, the College Express students in Dwight Lucas’ class at DACC submitted 19 poster-size projects that were done on the computer — all of them phenomenal, McLaughlin said.
Also, a health class at Danville High School submitted nine board games that addressed the issue of sexually transmitted diseases.
Other items include: poker chips and ceramic masks on a board, asking “what are you willing to risk?”; a papier mache cigarette; a 4-foot tall likeness of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”; and other three-dimensional projects. In addition, there are videos, creative writing, drawings and sculptures.
What amazes McLaughlin is that the young people are willing to share their thoughts and experiences. One student, for example, wrote an essay about what it was like to be addicted to synthetic marijuana, and how she hopes others won’t get into any kind of drugs.
“These kids are willing to share their thoughts with people they don’t know,” McLaughlin said.
On Friday and Saturday, local people chosen by McLaughlin will judge the artwork and the winners will be announced Sunday. Cash prizes and certificates will be given to the winners at their schools’ honors programs.
McLaughlin said, in past years, the volunteer judges have said it’s difficult to choose winners from all of the wonderful pieces.
The Arts and Health Festival is the second phase of I Sing the Body Electric project (the youth survey was the first phase). In the final phase, the completed projects are taken on tours to schools in Vermilion County and other sites.
Many of these projects are also on display at the annual Festival of Trees, proceeds from which serve as the primary source of financial support. Other funding is received through grants from local foundations and corporations, and gifts from civic clubs and individuals.
I Sing the Body Electric is part of a coalition that includes Presence United Samaritans Medical Center, DACC, Danville School District 118, the Vermilion County Regional Office of Education, the Vermilion County Health Department, Center for Children’s Services, Hoopeston Multi-Agency, and Carle Hoopeston Regional Health Center.
For more information on I Sing the Body Electric, visit http://www.presencehealth.org/ising or call 442-6594.