By Tia Lynn Ivey
A community collaboration project drew local leaders and representatives from the Governor Brian Kemp and Congressman Jody Hice offices for the unveiling of an art installation at the Morgan County Detention Center last week.
Every year, the Steffen Thomas Museum of Art (STMA) teams up with the Morgan County Crossroads, an alternative school program, to create an art piece to be displayed somewhere in Morgan County. This year’s project was particularly special as students utilized their artist skills to create a piece to brighten up the Morgan County Detention Center.
“This is an example of true community interacting–everyone supporting each other,” said Roland Lewan, president of the STMA board.
Crossroads students worked with STMA instructors to create colorful mural signifying hope for the detention center. Elizabeth Collins served as the lead artist and teacher and Angelina Bellebuono and Chuck Hanes served as assistant facilitaros for the project.
“This team, with their group of STMA Creative Teens Going Green students, are very proud to present this mural, ‘Rays of Hope’ to the Morgan County Detention Center,” explained Lewan. “This stylized sun was created through a hands-on experience using block scraps of wood from a previous project, celebrating the Steffen Thomas philosophy of reusing materials that others might consider trash.”
The STMA and Crossroads students chose the Morgan County Detention Center this year to highlight the important work they do for the local community, particularly recognizing Captain Ernestine Robertson who runs the detention center at the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office with her dedicated staff. The art piece also aims to serve as a source of inspiration for those who find themselves at the Morgan County Detention Center.
“’Rays Of Hope’ represents both light and hope. The student artists collaborated to create a list of words that offer support and encouragement, and before the blocks were affixed to the wood panel, the students wrote words as positive, loving intention on the back of each individual part of the sun, creating a work of art with as much meaning in spirit as colorful adornment for the physical space in which it is displayed,” explained Lewan.
Lewan suggested this project over a year ago as a gesture of gratitude for the services of the Morgan County Detention Center.
“This is a core piece essential for daily operations at the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, as well as Morgan County. They get little recognition or accolades – in light of how much they do,” said Lewan. “Led by Captain Robertson and Lt. Reid, this group of dedicated staff provides hope and support for not only the people who are staying at the detention center, but also to family, relatives and others that come to the Sheriff’s Office to visit,” noted Lewan. “They provide a relatively unrecognized service and function, but not only would the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office be unable to operate on a daily basis without the Detention center support and services, the Detention Center provides a critical component to the local community and Morgan County.”
But the art project does not solely benefit the detention center, but also the students who participated in its creation.
“The additional significance is these Crossroads students, some of which may have had challenges with authority and law enforcement, creating a positive work and thanking law enforcement for what they do,” explained Lewan. “This program has helped students find and express their talents – and then create art that is given and prominently exhibited in public locations.
The Crossroads students were celebrated last Wednesday at the art unveiling, as STMA leaders, law enforcement officials, and local and state leaders gathered to admire the new artwork at the Morgan County Detention Center. Blake Poole, a representative from Governor Kemp’s office, along with Edward Shelor, a representative from Congressman Jody Hice’s office, and State Representative Dave Belton all attended last week’s dedication.
“This helps further promote how Morgan County is working and how its organizations and community members are working together to make the Morgan County community what it is,” said Lewan.
Lewan praised the Morgan County School system for its commitment to meeting students where they are and providing opportunities for them to flourish.
“The Morgan County School system provides hope and support for those students that cannot function or excel in the traditional school environment by providing the Alternative School program. In this environment students recognize their value, skills and future,” said Lewan. “The school system devises and implements many programs – each honed to catch a group of students to ensure their growth, success and pathway in life.”
According to Lewan, the STMA is committed to be part of that vision and working with students to foster confidence and purpose through creativity.
“Steffen Thomas Museum, as part of its educational outreach, established a Crossroads program, providing art education as part of the curriculum at the Alternative school,” said Lewan.
“The Steffen Thomas Museum is a fine art museum, that has art education and community outreach as one of its priorities. The Crossroads program was established with support of local donors and grants to provide art education curriculum at the Alternative School. This program has been very well received by students, and successful. Each year, works of art are created and donated to local business and public locations for the general public and community to view and enjoy. Similar to all of the art on display at STMA’s galleries, the art provides visual, philosophical and spiritual expression and fulfillment.”
Lewan expressed appreciation to the local community for making this project possible.
“The support of community is rich in this combination of players; acquisition of a large commercial facility and conversion to the Law Enforcement Safety Complex despite impossible financial and conversion challenges; New construction, expansion, innovative programs and options in the Morgan County School systems that includes incredible community participation to complete construction of a new High School and upcoming Middle School, support for a Museum in a very rural area serving the local community and Atlanta, and finally commitment and dedication to providing funding to provide art instruction and education to children and adults in areas where they might never have the exposure or opportunity to experience art – and in many cases their aptitude to excel as artists,” said Lewan.
To find out what’s next for the STMA, as new art exhibits and events are on the horizon for the 2019-2020 lineup, visit: www.steffenthomas.org. Or call (706) 342-7557. The museum is located at 4200 Bethany Road in Buckhead, Georgia.