Art students learn the ABCs of community service

Thursday, May 15, 2014 2:00:00 PM

Alphabet Project

Students in Maureen Chavez-Kruger’s “Understanding Art 150” classes have found a unique way to engage and inspire others with their recent creations. In this case, it is for those people among us who are often the most in need of inspiration and support.

Her classes have completed work on an art installation titled "The Alphabet Harmony Panel Project" at the Cathedral Center. The Cathedral Center is a homeless shelter in downtown Milwaukee which  provides emergency facility and case management services for individual women and families who are homeless or experiencing a housing crisis.

The students’ art, geared to be visually and intellectually stimulating for children, was installed on the walls of the family floor at the center, which can serve up to 32 single women and eight families per day. Students were asked to create a 12 x 12 image associated with the letters of the alphabet so that parents and children can engage in the artwork.

“It’s a safe, clean facility… everything a shelter needs to be, but it’s lacking a little bit of color,” said Chavez-Kruger. “We created art that will help heal and comfort the parents and children that stay at the center. It’s not just a pretty picture; we want something that people can interact with.”

Chavez-Kruger, who has personally supported the shelter as a volunteer for six years, was enthused about the potential to connect classroom activities to community needs.

“I’ve been working towards giving my students an opportunity to witness the power of art and how it can impact the life of others,” she said.

A total of 30 students are involved in this project, which is serving as their final exam for the course. On May 9, one group of students installed the art and the other served dinner to guests at the shelter.

Kim Theno, director of resource development at the shelter, greatly appreciates the support, and was especially impressed by the diverse range of creativity displayed by the student artists.

“It’s not just art majors; they are business and economic majors and others involved,” she said. “They all bring a different strength to the project.”

Forty percent of the current residents of the shelter have been the victims of domestic violence, and the demands for service often exceed what the shelter can offer. This makes the help of outside organizations like Stritch essential for them.

“When people learn about our needs, they want to help,” Theno  said.

Students also conducted a donation drive, collecting items of the greatest need at the shelter, including shaving cream, deodorant, baby wipes, diapers, shampoo, soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, paper towel, washcloths, and non-perishable snack items. 

“The students have been working hard and are very proud of what they’ve been doing, both inside and outside the classroom, to live out the Franciscan values at the university,” said Chavez-Kruger.