MCCC Club Learns Lessons in Art and Altruism


West Windsor, N.J. -- Members of the MCCC Art Club have learned lots about painting, drawing and sculpting this year - and also about altruism. According to the club's advisor, Assistant Professor Lucas Kelly, the club has raised the bar with three ambitious community service projects. "Each year, students get excited about different things. Community outreach and service projects were the focus this year," Kelly says.

Spearheading the effort was Fine Arts student Meghan Yake, who enrolled at Mercer in 2007, but only got active in the Art Club this past fall. "I wish I had done it sooner," she said. "I look forward to every meeting and I'm excited to be here." While Yake, who plans to transfer to continue her art studies in the fall, has always loved her Mercer classes, community service has added a fulfilling dimension to her college experience. "It's so nice to know I'm doing something worthwhile for charity," she says.

The first outreach effort took place on December 8, when 15 student volunteers visited a K-8 After School Program for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Trenton. They spent more than two hours making holiday art projects with 110 youngsters. According to Yake, the younger children made holiday greeting cards and the older ones made ornaments. "They were great kids and really into it," she said. "They didn't want to leave." Some of the students' family members and friends even joined in to help.

Over the winter break in January, Art Club members again reached out, this time to the ZieherSmith Gallery in New York City. Several students submitted work and served as volunteers for "Postcards from the Edge," an annual benefit event for the nonprofit organization Visual AIDS, which helps artists with HIV/AIDS and promotes awareness and education.

Kelly explains that artists of all types, ages, and levels of career accomplishment submit postcard-sized art signed only on the back. All pieces cost $75. "They are hung so that the artists' signatures are not visible. Collectors hope they are buying pieces from an established artist, but they may actually be purchasing the work of an emerging artist or a student like those from Mercer," Kelly explains.

Yake was front and center for this event and spent hours hanging some of the 1500 postcards. "It was a great experience in learning and volunteerism," she said.

After winter break, the Art Club conceived and promoted "Karaoke for a Cause" on Feb. 20 with the Teal Wings of Hope Foundation, an outreach group for women with ovarian cancer. Held at the German American Club in Hamilton, the event raised $8,000.

The MCCC Art Club reached out to youngsters in the Boys and Girls Club after-school program in December.

Art Club members help youngsters with holiday projects.
Members of the MCCC Art Club include Meghan Yake, standing next to advisor Lucas Kelly, far right.
Greyson Hong, from the Art Institute of Chicago, spoke to Art Club members April 1. He is pictured reviewing the portfolio of Fine Arts student Matt Polito.

Yake proved herself to be an able promoter, selling approximately 100 of the 130 total tickets, including some to MCCC faculty members and students. She also admits to performing a few numbers. "I'm a dancer, not a singer," she said, "but I wanted to help get it started. People had a great time."

Kelly notes that the purpose of these projects is to get students to think about themselves and their art in the larger world outside the classroom. "We want them to see the connection between the arts and the community. Eventually, in their work and their lives, they need to do things not because they are given a class assignment, but because it's worthwhile to give back to your community. "

The elements of networking and recognition within the artistic community are important too. "Artists must persevere, take the initiative, and make connections. These types of activities help students to begin thinking about how they can make a living in the arts."

Among the Art Club's annual activities are the Garden State exhibition, a collaborative show of student and faculty work; trips to museums in New York City and Philadelphia; lectures by visiting artists; and portfolio review workshops with representatives from four-year schools. A recent visit by Greyson Hong, from the Art Institute of Chicago, drew more than 20 students, who learned about the institute's academic programs and got personalized feedback on their portfolios.

For Yake, who plans to take her passion for print-making to the next level at a four-year school , the waning days of her MCCC experience are bitter sweet. "I love Mercer. I wish it were a four-year school.

"Someday I want to be a professor myself. I see how the faculty handle themselves here. They are role models for the kind of professor I want to be. I want my students to be engaged and invested," Yake says.

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