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Art in Unlikely Places: Group’s ‘Future Doors’ project brings art to those who need it most

 (Photo from UKNow)

People at the Christian Health Center take in Caitlin Serey’s work on the Future Doors project. Future Doors was the first project for Art in Unlikely Places, an arts organization launched by a group of UK arts administration students to bring art to Lexingtonians who need it the most. The group has begun seeking community support with their own Kickstarter campaign. (Photo from UKNow)


By Whitney Hale
Special to KyForward

What began as a class project in arts administration at the University of Kentucky has grown into a fully functioning arts organization that could benefit the community for years to come.

A group of 17 students has taken a course project from their 402 class with Mark Rabideau, UK Arts Administration Director of Undergraduate Studies, to new heights by founding an arts organization dedicated to working with local nonprofits. Driven by the belief that creativity is the seed of hope, Art in Unlikely Places connects artists to those most in need of the transformative powers of the arts. The group believes that art by definition challenges the mind and emotions and refocuses our perspective of the world.

“Essentially what we want to do is to give something to people who may be facing a struggle in their life or have become defined by an illness. Bringing inspiring artwork to these people humanizes them again,” said arts administration senior Katie Silver, executive director of Art in Unlikely Places.

To get the organization up and going, the students were awarded a grant from the Michael Braun Endowment Fund. The endowment, named for a former director of the UK Arts Administration Program, awards funding for projects and activities that enrich student knowledge of the arts administration profession and field.

The first project for Art in Unlikely Places is called Future Doors. For the initiative, local artists were commissioned to create works of art on doors that reflect the mission of eight partner nonprofit organizations. The idea was based on a concept pitched by an international student from the class. To help make the project a reality, Habitat for Humanity donated doors to the artists.

Nathan Williams, left, and John Thompson of Art in Unlikely Places delivered artist Cameron White's door to the Lexington Veterans Affairs Medical Center. (Photo from UKNow)

Nathan Williams, left, and John Thompson of Art in Unlikely Places delivered artist Cameron White’s door to the Lexington Veterans Affairs Medical Center. (Photo from UKNow)

The students brainstormed a list of different groups of people they might want to help, including some organizations that had made an impact on their own lives.

“Some of us were very emotionally attached to certain organizations,” Siver said. “My artist and I worked with Cardinal Hill on this project because both of us have suffered from physical injury and gone through physical rehabilitation and that has made a huge impact on our lives. We’ve both found that art is something that really helped us through that time. It was really important for us to work with an organization like that.”

Artist and student Cameron White agreed. He selected his partner nonprofit, the Lexington Veterans Affairs Medical Center, based on personal relationships. “I have several friends who are or were in the military — and family members. The VA doesn’t just do medical care, they also help soldiers and service members re-integrate after their work.”

White’s door has an American flag as the background behind what appears to be shattered glass with two hands grasping. “It’s almost as though the glass has shattered but it’s more of reality. Then, there are two hands grasping in a warrior’s grip across the front. It was the idea of helping hands, that the human contact really helps, and then I did a little extra to mend the breaking glass of reality as the hands are clasping.”

The eight participating nonprofits and artists in Future Doors are:

Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital and Emily Slusher;
• Christian Health Center and Caitlin Serey, a 2014 arts administration and art studio graduate;
Hope Center and Spencer Reinhard;
Lexington Veterans Affairs Medical Center and White, a creative writing and art studio junior from Lexington;
NAMI Lexington and Sara Hadorn, an arts administration senior from Erlanger;
Ronald McDonald House and Jenny Kittinger, a 2008 art studio and art education graduate;
Shriners Hospital for Children and Andria McElroy, a music education senior from Georgetown; and
The Nest Center for Women, Children and Families and Isabell Park, an integrated strategic communication sophomore from Hopkinsville.

The artwork serves as reminders of hope for the underserved of Lexington and the nonprofits were excited to team up with creative types in the Bluegrass.

“We know the healing powers of art. Anytime we can bring something in for our patients, either to encourage them more or inspire them more, just to see something different that they don’t see every day that they are here at Cardinal Hill, we certainly want to lift up our patients in any way that we can,” said volunteer coordinator Marley Tribble, of Cardinal Hill.

Each door is currently on display until June 25 at its respective nonprofit where artists and the organizations hope it inspires members of the nonprofit community and promotes the work they do for Lexington.

At Cardinal Hill, Emily Slusher’s door is centrally located. “The reason why we put it in the Conservatory is this is a beautiful area for patients to be able to get out of the room, visit with family and friends, and have lots of people come in. It is a different setting than other hospital rooms they spend a lot of time in,” Tribble said.

Cardinal Hill’s door doesn’t only inspire those who see it, it has a practical purpose as well and includes the artist’s own story of rehabilitation.

(Video by Jenny Wells/UK Public Relations and Marketing)

“The door is interactive. There is a DVD with, I think at least, five different patient stories that Emily took, and she cut them up and put them together. She told her story with them as well,” Tribble said. There is a light switch that you can flip and it turns on a light bulb. It is really available for anyone. Anyone can walk over, play around and see what they can explore there. The pulley is great, not only does it have the remote in there so patients and families can come up and see it. Pulling and grabbing is something that our therapists work with our patients on a daily basis. If a person had a stroke or lost some movement in their hand, they can bring them down here and use the door as part of their therapy.”

Next week the doors will be moved to the historic Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center where the pieces of art will serve yet another purpose by raising money for the artists and nonprofit organizations they represent through an auction. Each artist plans to donate 50 percent or more of the proceeds from the doors to their partner nonprofit.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 25, at the Lyric, located at 300 E. 3rd Street. The silent auction will begin around 6:30 p.m. In addition to the Future Doors silent auction, the event will also feature local live music, local foods and a cash bar.

“We encourage everybody to come out even if you aren’t bidding on a door to come see the artwork and enjoy yourself, eat some food, listen to some music, hang out with some of our artists while you’re there,” Silver said.

“For me, the real investment through Future Doors is empowering young people to see themselves as change-agents, leveraging their skills, knowledge, experience and passion toward providing hope for those most in need of the transformative powers of the arts,” Rabideau said.

To help further support Art in Unlikely Places, the group also launched a Kickstarter campaign earlier this month. Funding received through the Kickstarter will be used to support the efforts of Art in Unlikely Places to partner with charitable organizations and to launch future cultural and social entrepreneurial projects.

In the future, Art in Unlikely Places hopes to present a variety of programs in different arts fields to support the community. “We would never limit ourselves to one art form. Everyone in the organization comes from different artistic backgrounds. We have painters, we have musicians, we have writers, we have all of it. It is very important for us to have that diverse artistic approach to it,” Silver said.

For more information about Art in Unlikely Places or Future Doors, visit the organization’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/artin.unlikelyplaces​, or contact Mark Rabideau, at mark.rabideau@uky.edu.

Whitney Hale is an information specialist senior with the University of Kentucky.

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