Traverse City Record-Eagle

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May 12, 2014

Healing with art

NORTHPORT — Depression, illness, death — they’re the subjects teachers avoid broaching in high school. Yet Jenny Evans, an art teacher at Northport Public School, asked her students to tackle them head-on.

“I was trying to open the discussion,” Evans said. “At our school alone, we’ve had three parent suicides this year.”

The result: a community dialogue spoken through hundreds of pieces of art. Evans asked her students and those from Leelanau St. Mary’s and Leland schools to spend the past month making art that describes illness or its impact on the small Leelanau County communities.

“The whole idea is to have a serious subject, but have fun,” Evans said.

She expects about 70 pieces of art will comprise the student exhibit, while hundreds of small works by area artists will fuel a fundraiser auction. Auction proceeds will go to Abby Gross and Kris Popp, both Leelanau County residents who are struggling with cancer.

The show and sale take place at the Northport Public School lobby, 104 Wing St., Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m.

Ashley Pino worked last week to finish her project. It is a collage of photos of students holding inspirational messages directed toward Popp. Pino plans to give the work to Popp after the show.

The past month working on the projects pulled the classmates closer together, Pino said.

“There’s a lot of people who’ve opened up,” she said. “I knew some of the stuff about my classmates, but to hear it ... we’ve definitely learned a lot about each other this month.”

Pino learned one of her classmates struggles with depression and another goes home to a brother who suffers from a debilitating genetic disorder.

Morgan Collins painted a scene of a mother and daughter walking toward a stormy horizon to commemorate a childhood friend who was separated from her mother by alcoholism. The girl moved away from the small community about five years ago to live with her father.

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