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MCCC Art Club to Brighten Environment for Kids in Crisis


West Windsor, N.J. – When children are brought to the Mercer County Child Advocacy Center, they are in crisis, usually as the result of either physical or sexual abuse. So, when the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office reached out to the Art Club at Mercer County Community College (MCCC) for assistance in the fall of 2013, art students were ready to take on a special assignment.

“The Prosecutor’s Office was looking for artwork that could ease the anxiety and fear of child victims by giving them bright and reassuring artwork to look at as they passed through the hallways there. It was a project our students embraced,” said MCCC Professor of Fine Arts Kyle Stevenson, who served as last year’s Art Club advisor.  He estimates that 20 students added to the mural over a 12-month period.

The final product, which was delivered to the Prosecutor’s Office in late January, is a large, colorful three-panel mural.  The panels measure 4 feet by 6 feet and are designed to be hung as a whole or in three separate sections.
Participants in the mural project included (seated, center) Art Club President Autumn Bardachino and Uriel Richman, and, back row, from left, Professors Yevgeniy Fiks and Kyle Stevenson, Iwona Skiba, Richard Siggillino, Sidney Taylor, Christan Ellis, Deanna Feinstein and Alexix Pratt.

Stevenson notes that with the number of students involved, creating the mural posed unique challenges.  “Blood, sweat and tears went into this project.  As it proceeded, it was ‘decision by committee,’ which proved to be an exercise in negotiation and a great learning experience for our students,” he said.

According to Art Club President Autumn Bardachino, the project was a total team effort.  “There were different people contributing at different times. During winter break last year, I even had the canvases at my house. Students came and worked on it there, with some individuals spending a lot of time on specific sections.”

Bardachino recalled that the project went through two rounds.  The initial design was deemed too somber for what the Prosecutor’s Office had in mind.  “They wanted bright colors and images that would be pleasing to children. We regrouped to add elements for a young audience. It turned out better,” she said.

On Jan. 29, Bardachino and several other students traveled to the Prosecutor’s Office for a recognition ceremony. Professor Stevenson and fellow Professor of Fine Arts Yevgeniy Fiks, the club’s current advisor, accompanied the group.

First Assistant Prosecutor Angelo Onofri warmly welcomed the students and stressed just how much his office appreciated their work. “We thank the students for their fantastic work and the professors for their guidance. The mural is child-friendly and welcoming, just the kind of feeling we wanted to create. It’s something we will be proud to hang.”

Special Victims Unit Chief Jennifer Downing added, “We are a government office with a limited budget. Our walls are a blank slate. We are really happy to have something positive for the kids to look at and relate to.”

At the conclusion of the ceremony, students were presented with certificates of appreciation. 

Professor Stevenson had his own words of praise for this tremendous student effort.  “It’s terrific for them to have done this – to conceive and execute such a meaningful art project. It will also be a good addition to their resumes.”

For club leader Bardachino, it’s a relief that the mural is finally completed. “It was such a big project. But the best part of finishing it is that this art has a purpose; it’s not just for a grade. It is an important connection with the community, the kind we should have as a community college. And, it will have an impact on children’s lives.”

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