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Art making an impact on at-risk youth thanks to generous donors

Posted on Jan 6, 2021, by

Local artist Irineo Medina and a few at-risk youth from the Art Works program at the Trout Museum of Art worked on a mural across the street. He stands with Education Coordinator Marci Hoffman from the museum.

At-risk youth in the Art Works program at the Trout Museum of Art are gaining an opportunity and friendships that had been missing from their lives.

The youth, many who face mental health and trauma challenges, are referred to Art Works by the Outagamie County Juvenile Court system to reconnect them with their community in a positive way.

“We decided to create our own exhibition called, Telling Our Stories, where each youth painted a self-portrait explaining the depth of who they really were,” explains Marci Hoffman, education coordinator, Trout Museum of Art (TMA). “Art has an incredible rehabilitative effect on everyone and providing more opportunities for Restorative Justice youth to create is a perfect opportunity to learn skill-building and increase their self-confidence.”

The museum received grants for the program from the Bright Idea Fund and the Appleton Rotary Community Art Fund within the Community Foundation to bring in local artists to help the youth express themselves through art in a healthy and safe environment. “Thanks to the support of the Bright Idea Fund from the Community Foundation of the Fox Valley Region, this program has expanded to include youth from Outagamie County’s Shelter Care Program, as well,” says Hoffman.

Local artist Irineo Medina is one of several artists working with the youth, and he and Hoffman shared their thoughts recently about how this opportunity is impacting lives in our community:

COVID-19 restrictions presented unique challenges last year, so Medina took a detour and invited them outdoors, to help him paint a mural across the street from the Trout.

Without formal art instruction, the youth painted their self-portraits. They were encouraged to expand beyond any boundaries of what is considered a formal image and examples of different types of self-portraits were provided.

After all of their paintings were hung in TMA’s Student Artist Gallery, each youth, their families, their social workers, teachers, and even the district attorney came for an open house.

Those who felt comfortable were invited to talk about their piece. All evening, conversations focused around identity, aggression, abuse, beauty, happiness, depression, anger and love. Emotion filled the space, but the most profound emotion was pride.

Want to help bright ideas burn even brighter? Learn how to get involved as a generous individual, business or organization, or learn how to apply for a Bright Idea grant as a nonprofit organization.

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