Art with a purpose. Southern Oregon University student Ashlie Moore brought this to the Hannon Library Gallery on Thursday March 8th. LIFE Art, consisting of a group of kids with a message about depression and suicide, partnered up with Moore for her senior art capstone project.
Moore contacted Phil Ortega, director of LIFE Art to get kids together to create a project that explored their world through the use of juice box film cameras. Ortega started LIFE Art (Live Inspire Freedom of Expression) with his wife in the spring of 2011 after he found two boys doing graffiti on the wall of his shop outside. He saw the need for art and expression with the youth and sought out a way to make it happen. With hard work and some money from the Garret Lee Smith Memorial Fund, Ortega and his wife were able to make this vision a reality.
The group started with 15 kids from six different schools ranging from elementary to university level. Now, the group has grown to the involvement of 40 people and has recent sponsorship from Cartoon Network. Through the help with this group, two LIFE Art members have been able to successfully transition to SOU and are freshman exploring university life, something that they may not have seen for themselves prior to joining the group.
Chris Pimental, 18, was part of the four students working with Moore on her capstone project. Originally part of the graffiti group, he saw an opportunity to branch out and therefore tried photography for the first time. Going to SOU to work in the darkroom was “overwhelming” for Pimental as he had “never been to a college before,” but it opened his eyes to possibility.
Moore chose to work with juice box cameras because she wanted to give the kids the opportunity to “let go of the need to control how the photographs turned out,” learning film photography through experience.
When asked how he felt about his first experience working with photography in the darkroom, Pimental replied, “It’s definitely hard, but it’s fun seeing what you can do, and it’s rewarding.”
“Working with LIFE Art opened my eyes and I hope to continue working with the kids,” said Moore.
After graduation Moore plans to explore wedding photography and hopes to continue working with at-risk youth.
Each student has approximately six photos each in Moore’s capstone gallery, located in the Retzlaff Gallery on the third floor of the Hannon Library at SOU.
For more LIFE Art work visit the Art in Bloom Fair, May 12 and 13, on 6th and Central in Medford, OR. The kids in the LIFE Art group will be working on murals, which the community is invited to participate in painting.