Storefront Art Project gives local teens place to shine

Becky Campbell • Nov 1, 2013 at 10:56 AM

Nearly a dozen local teenagers have accomplished something this week all artists dream of — having their work on public display.

It came about through the Storefront Art Project, a program implemented by Becky Haas in her direction of a federal grant designed to reduce crime, revitalize neighborhoods and help offenders successfully navigate re-entry into the community.

The Johnson City Police Department was awarded the $800,000 federal grant — a Targeted Community Crime Reduction Project — earlier this year.

In the “pre-enforcement” aspect of the TCCRP, Haas is working to implement programs like Positive Action education in the afterschool program at Science Hill High School’s Alternative Center and PATROL — Police and Teens Reaching Opportunities for Life — in the Carver and Dunbar communities.

And for neighborhood revitalization, Haas is using a photo contest and art display to brighten up business storefronts in downtown Johnson City.

That’s how 10 Alternative Center students came to win the Snapshot Challenge and get their cell phone photographs displayed in the Hands On! Museum’s Market Street windows. And a home-schooled student, Summer Heschong, was selected by her art teacher, LaDonna West, to help create an oil pastel painting to hang in a four-sided display window on East Main Street at the Dosser Building.

SHHS student Sabrina Anderson said the photo contest was designed to encourage students to use their cell phone cameras in positive ways.

“The snapshot project was a project to actually spread the word about Positive Action and get everyone interested in doing it,” Anderson said. “It was a really good choice, but going through this it’s spread positive action into our school and people have more positive things to do with their time.”

Anderson said the goal is to re-direct negative things into positive things.

“It was a way to get people away from negative things in life and toward more positive things (and) show their artistic side. Instead of doing graffiti in the city, let them have snapshots that can be displayed,” she said.

Sheri Cooper, a career coach at the Alternative Center, said she’s seen changes in students with programs such as Positive Action and activities like the Snapshot Challenge.

“I’ve been at the Alternative Center for 10 years. Anytime we have a program such as Positive Action or Leadership Resiliency Program or even the after school LEAP (Lottery Education Afterschool Program) leadership program, those types of things tend to motivate students to make better choices because it becomes cool because you earn things,” Cooper said.

“You’re teaching a life skill by (them) earning something at the same time, they’re not being made to make a choice. They’re given options to think about what they’re doing. They’re still allowed to make their own choices and their own mistakes. But instead of hammer down, this was wrong and you’re punished, we talk about it and think about different ways you can think about something and different actions you can have after the fact,” Cooper said.

The Snapshot Challenge winners are: Andre Spillman, first; Kaden Austin, second and fifth; Herbert Valdez, third and eighth; Carlos Dorado, fourth; Brad Brown, sixth; Sabrina Anderson, seventh; Destiny Lee, ninth; and Jessica Frazier, 10th.

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