Mount St. Joseph University

Art in the Community

Mount News: alumni magazine


Art flourishes an individual’s self-expression and promotes one’s attachment and sense of belonging to the community.

When art students at the College of Mount St. Joseph get the opportunity to work outside of the classroom, they intertwine course assignments with real world experience by working with clients to give back to others.

Mount graphic design students put their talent and creativity to work for customers throughout Greater Cincinnati by crafting professional art that inspires, engages and brings people together.

A Challenging Assignment

Last fall, Kolar Design and the nonprofit ArtWorks collaborated with Mount graphic design faculty to have students create a series of posters for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center’s new Green Township facility.

Sophomores spent the 2012 fall semester meeting the challenge of creating “seek-and-find” posters that feature dominant icons representing the theme “Pride in the Westside.”

The object of the “seek-and-find” posters is to include secondary elements that serve as a game for patients and their parents to locate and identify while waiting for their appointments, says Beth Belknap Brann, M.Des., associate professor and chair of the Department of Graphic Design.

The assignment: to reinforce Cincinnati Children’s brand look and feel while incorporating graphics and colors that contribute to a welcoming and uplifting, healing environment.

The posters are bright and cheerful and effectively reduce stress, Brann says. They also serve as a positive distraction for anxious or nervous children, she says.

Thirteen sophomore graphic design students researched Westside Cincinnati events, people and places to find inspiring images that would be recognizable to Westside residents. Each student digitally created three main icons using Adobe Creative Suite® software. Icons were focused on four themes: hard-working, neighborly, family values, and teamwork, according to the class syllabus.

“The depth of research our students completed for this project gave them a deeper appreciation for Cincinnati’s Westside,” Brann says. “Those that don’t live there were taught by those that do about the life and values there.”

Hands-on Experience

Mount students gained additional insight by working with interpretations from students of Bridgetown Middle School, C.O. Harrison Elementary School and Oak Hills High School. The primary and secondary students created additional art elements by composing their own watercolor and hand-drawn images, representing their own unique interpretations of Westside pride.

The final digital artwork crafted by the Mount students incorporated these background images, Brann says. They worked with the secondary objects and translated them into an identifiable shape that united and contrasted the two elements, creating the “seek-and-find” concept.

“This collaboration was my first experience working with a client. By the end of the assignment I had gained a wealth of knowledge about how to budget time and how to effectively communicate with clients. It was a great introduction into what will become an important part of my career.” – Peter Gillaspy

The hands-on experience is invaluable for the sophomores who took part.

“This collaboration was my first experience working with a client,” says Peter Gillaspy, a Mount student who worked on the project. “By the end of the assignment I had gained a wealth of knowledge about how to budget time and how to effectively communicate with clients. It was a great introduction into what will become an important part of
my career.”

Working with actual clients and knowing that a lot was expected from them gave the Mount students confidence,
Brann says.

“This activity bonded the class in ways rarely seen,” she says. “They feel and act empowered and re-dedicated to their profession.”

A jury at Cincinnati Children’s selected 36 of the final 39 posters to be printed and framed in the Green Township facility. Bold, vivid and colorful 26" x 34" framed posters now hang in the hallways and waiting rooms of every floor in the medical center. The finished posters include images of Westside traditions such as corn hole, high school football and West Fest, as well as familiar businesses like Western Bowl and community locations like Delhi Park.

Leesa Scudder, a graphic design major who contributed to the project says, “All of the student artist’s connections to their posters are evident in their productions. Each set of posters has a unique flavor, reflecting the designers’ individualities while still being cohesive as a group of works to achieve a purpose.”

Therapeutic Art

Art therapy is often used as a term to describe the therapeutic process of art-making itself. The posters at Cincinnati Children’s Green Township location serve as another form of therapy. They offer a functional, calming element to waiting patients and their families by letting children recognize favorite Westside objects, presenting them with cheery and uplifting visuals.

Elizabeth Roell, coordinator of the Division of Occupational and Physical Therapy at Cincinnati Children’s outpatient center sees first hand the impact the posters have on patients and families.

“The posters really do make a big difference,” Roell says. “While children are waiting for exams it serves as a distraction and reduces the children’s anxiety.” The art also aids in actual physical therapy.

“When working with patients we even use the posters as a target at the end of hallways as a method for children to identify objects to walk towards while completing their strengthening exercises,” says Roell.

The posters embrace Westside pride and embody the collaborative efforts of Cincinnati Children’s, Kolar Design, Artworks, and many schools, including the Mount.

In all, 149 students from the Mount, elementary, middle, and high schools created 350 different works of art that were integrated into the posters.

“The most rewarding part for me was being able to create artwork that will be used for more than just decoration or part of an exhibit,” says Gillaspy. “My work and the work of my classmates will be used to give a joyful escape to children who now can have, at the very least, one thing to look forward to at their next trip to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Outpatient Center.”

Community Collaborations

Not only are Mount students engaging in the community but the College’s new off-campus Flats Gallery is actively involved as well. Located at the corner of Price and Hawthorne Avenues, the newly renovated 1,300 square foot space is now home to the Flats Gallery, which welcomes members of the community to experience artwork from Mount students, faculty and regional artists.

The Flats Gallery is part of the Mount’s Urban Arts Partnership and receives support from Price Hill residents, employees, local businesses and organizations.

“The Flats Gallery has been an amazing venue for community building,” says Velma Dailey, gallery director. “Through programming and exhibitions, we have been able to bring together people from all walks of life.”

This summer the Flats Gallery hosted a series of workshops available to both the Mount and general community. Dailey says the classes have been a positive experience.

“There’s something inspiring and energizing when new art is being created in the present moment right in the middle of the art gallery,” she says.

“We hope to continue to be one of many in the neighborhood working hard to help build and shape this community into a thriving destination where people want to be.” – Velma Dailey

Examples include “Upcycling,” taught by Mount alumna Adrian Vance Hawk. This class introduced innovative ways to turn simple objects like plastic bags into functional and fashionable new creations such as clutches, coin purses and wallets. An “Art Workshop – Just for Kids” taught skills in drawing, painting and weaving to children ages 6 to 11. Instructor and Mount alumna Hilary Neu Carvitti also exposed students to new materials, important artists and art movements.

Through artwork, the Mount is reaching out and enriching the lives of those who live in the communities that surround the college campus, Dailey says.

“We hope to continue to be one of many in the neighborhood working hard to help build and shape this community into a thriving destination where people want to be.”