Youth Art Program Taking Root in Local Schools
By Erica Nelson
I think many of us would agree that the downtown Lake Charles Tree of Life mural is quite beautiful, but what it is providing for our local youth is even more beautiful. Most of the funds raised by the commemorative project are creating a sustainable program for young artists through the convenience of an after-school club. The goal is to send professional artists to lead mural clubs in local schools. The mural supports this mission by providing artists with a fair salary and quality materials.
The program gets shoulder to shoulder with local youth and teaches them useful life skills. It is designed to help them learn how to communicate ideas effectively as well as how to set goals, understand long-term planning, budget planning and time management, and how to work in a team. Under our gentle guidance, students take ownership of and accomplish a full-scale mural as team.
Washington Marion High School is the first recipient of our program. In its debut, sign-ups yielded an overwhelming 40 students. In our first month, a core group of committed young artists has emerged. They have combined profound intuition with raw talent, developing impressive designs for future murals. The students understand that this is an opportunity for them to speak to both the current and future generations. What is more astounding is how they are making sure that what they say is both positive and enduring.
So far, every design’s major themes center on life and hope, personal growth, and making a positive mark on the world. One of the most interesting themes that emerged was the juxtaposition of light and dark, symbolizing both good and hard times. The students realize that they need to stand united in order to thrive. I believe their vision is to see a more united Lake Charles, and to be a part of making that happen as they mature into adulthood.
The students realize that in order to survive, a community must stand together to weather storms. As a newcomer, I heard countless stories of bravery, strength, and renewal in the face of Rita and Katrina. On the 10th anniversary year of the hurricanes, it seems appropriate that the club is planning murals with such deeply resonating themes, which is even more remarkable since the conditions of some of their own facilities are a far cry from this picture of renewal and restoration. Working with them has brought the practical needs of their school to our attention.
Principal Jackie Shelton welcomed the club with open arms. She is a fearless leader, willing to do what it takes to give her students the best chances in their lives. The support of this kind of local leadership is what makes this program not only effective, but also connective. Our best hope for a better future is to invest in the children of today. We hope this program inspires students to make long-term goals as they mature into responsible citizens. I consider it a privilege to work alongside these lovely young adults and future world changers!
The Tree of Life Mural is providing so much more than an art program. It’s providing the chance for our community to learn together, grow together, and succeed together. Our goal is to expand into more local schools, create more jobs for local artists, and provide students quality art education and inspiration. With continued community support, the mission is a sustainable, long-term project. We ask that you consider contributing so that it can continue.
Simply go to CandiceAlexander.com, call (337) 433-2299, or visit Candice Alexander Art Studio at 900 Ryan St. in Lake Charles. We’ve received donations up to $2,000, but any and all support is appreciated, and participating in such a worthy cause is priceless.
The Tree of Life mural is a visual commemorative art project that will not only continue to appreciate in historical value, but will be a landmark for future generations. Tourists have already begun to visit Lake Charles specifically to see the mural, often donating to the mission. Thank all of you for your ongoing and future support!