By Gelsey Plaza /// Staff Writer
The group study section in Watzek has become more colorful for the month of February. On Feb. 8, the Samantha Robison ’08 art exhibit opened in Watzek Library. It will be on display until the end of the month. The Alumni and Parent Programs Office facilitated the art display of the Lewis & Clark alumna.
Every year, the Board of Alumni chooses four alumni to honor at the annual Alumni Honors Banquet. The board met in June of 2015 to select the winners. The four awards bestowed are: Outstanding Young Alumni Award, Distinguished Alumni Award, Don Balmer Citation For Service to the College, and the Pioneer Alumni Leadership Award. Robison received the Outstanding Young Alumni Award in 2015. A portion of Robison’s work is displayed in Watzek in conjunction with the honors banquet, which will be held Feb. 19.
Robison, who graduated LC in 2008, is the Founder and Executive Director of Awareness and Prevention through Art (aptART). This organization of artists and activists helps foster creativity and free expression with conflict-affected and marginalized youth around the world. Through artistic experiences, it spreads awareness and promotes prevention about the issues affecting people’s lives. Children and artists participate in the aptART projects, which are showcased locally and internationally. aptART has collaborated with youth on innovative projects in Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Jordan, Turkey, DR Congo, Mozambique and Europe. Robison partners with numerous local artists to spawn big murals that bring life back to these conflicted areas.
Robison in part became inspired to create aptART due to the discouraging current geo-political and economic climate.
“The media constantly spouts statistics of death and displacement alongside horrifying tales of destruction and terrorism,” Robison said. “So at aptART, we take the ideas behind street art and graffiti and we share them to the kids who are in the margins of society, inhabiting the streets and refugee camps; we share it with communities who are ignored or don’t have creative outlets or any outlet for that matter. We share these ideas of free-thinking and expression with children who have been affected by armed conflict or HIV or sexual violence; we work with them to generate awareness of issues affecting their lives.”
Emily Decker ’85, senior associate director for Alumni and Parents Programs, hopes that Robison’s display at Watzek will inspire LC students to follow their hearts and their passions.
“The images of Samantha’s artwork are very powerful and we are happy to be able to exhibit them for all of our students to enjoy and appreciate,” Decker said. “Having Samantha on campus will allow our students to be able to have contact with her and ask her questions and learn more about the amazing work that she has accomplished.”
Robison’s complete exhibit is located at the Mercy Corps headquarters in downtown Portland. Mercy Corps is a national aid and relief organization that helps support aptART’s projects. aptART is Mercy Corps’ partner in at least three programs working with youth.
The director of the Mercy Corps action center, LC alumna Megan McMorran ’79, considers this kind of activity — the making of public murals and street art — as a means to provide a voice to marginalized youth.
“It allows them to be kids,” McMorran said. “It helps them process horrible events. It helps them see hope and a future for themselves and it connects them to a community of people interested in building a strong and healthy society. It also brings a vibrancy to the endless rows of drab refugee tents and a sudden burst of life and vitality to a bomb blasted village. It uplifts an entire community. It helps people turn toward hope rather than hate and retribution.”
Mercy Corps focuses on working with youth so as to empower people to build a sustainable future and strengthen their own communities from within.
For more information about Robison’s organization, visit http://www.aptart.org/about/. For more information about Mercy Corps, visit http://www.mercycorps.org/about-us.