Changing lives through art


Changing lives through art

7:05 a.m. PST December 10, 2015

Spoons … pots … pans … buckets … water coolers … a toaster oven.

These items are not what many would think of as tools for art.

Mark Powers sees them differently.

“I work in a different type of art,” said Powers, a professional percussionist. “With art, you have to learn how to use limited resources (to) solve some of life’s problems.”

Powers moved across the stage, banging on and tapping the various house-held items, making music; making art.

Though the youth at the Hillcrest Youth Correctional Facility may have limited resources and limited space to express themselves, a new 10-month art workshop program at the facility is giving them an opportunity to make art and grow as individuals.

Powers is one of the local artists who will continue working with the youth of Hillcrest over the coming months.

The Rainforest and Concrete Art Program was celebrated at an open house at Robert Farrell High School on Wednesday.

The message to the community and the youth is summed up by Joe O’Leary, deputy director of Oregon Youth Authority.

“Art is resilient,” he said, addressing the youth. “You are resilient.”

Of the many art projects the youth have participated in over the years, all have been in the Salem community, such as the Mosaic outside the YMCA downtown.

“All art was being placed away from the youth,” said Lynn Takata, resident artist at the facility.

The facility created the newest program in response, as a way for the youth to create something they could keep with them.

“I hope it’s something you can hold on to,” Takata said.

Takata has worked with the all-male facility on and off since 2011, when she did her first workshop with the youth.

“It was such a meaningful experience,” she said. “I felt like I had the opportunity to make a difference.”

Though each students takes special interests in different types of art, ranging from music and poems to poetry and writing, many participating in the new program painted a three-banner art piece.

The rainforest theme of the banners came from a popular interest of the youth in South and Central American countries.

Though such a painting would typically be made into a mural, this was made into a banner so it could be transported to future locations for the students.

A few of the students addressed the audience and shared their thoughts on the program.

To maintain the identity of the youth, only the first initial of the students’ last names are included. The facility primarily has youth ages 14-18.

Reynaldo C., 18, got into art at a young age, inspired by his brother’s work.

But having always expressed himself in freestyle art, such as small sketches and graffiti, he wasn’t sure he would enjoy the art program.

“This was new to me…but I love a challenge,” he said.

Takata told him there was no such thing as messing up in art, but the perfectionist in him struggled with the concept at the beginning.

After a couple weeks, he said he began to understand.

“Art doesn’t have a formula,” he said. “Art is what you make it.”

Aside from being able to express themselves through art, the youth are also learning various skills in the program, such as how to better communicate and collaborate with one another.

And for these youth, working together is the most important part.

Reynaldo and ceremony emcee Kayshawn H.  are good friends.

Kayshawn said that when he gets to work on things with his friends he always has a good time.

“One of the cool things about doing it together is that something positive, something fun always comes out of it,” he said.

Takata hopes the students have a meaningful engagement with the art through the workshops.

“Art has the ability to heal and transform,” she said., (503) 399-6745, or follow on Twitter @Nataliempate or

Published by Natalie Pate

Natalie Pate is a freelance journalist and author based in Salem, Oregon. She wrote about education for more than seven years at the Statesman Journal and now covers education and other topics throughout the Pacific Northwest. She is originally from Colorado and earned her B.A. in Politics and French from Willamette University.

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