High school students from Oro Valley are busy creating an art installation at the Oro Valley Community Center.
“I kind of get to leave my mark on the town, and express myself in a way that wasn’t possible before this opportunity,” said Carley Noll, an incoming senior at BASIS Oro Valley.
For Noll and the other nine student artists participating in the Transportation Art by Youth-Summer Youth Art Project, her passion for the arts encouraged her to join the effort. Noll said she’s enjoying a summer full with exploration and learning.
The Pima Association of Governments is funding the project with $75,000. According to PAG Senior Transportation Planner Nathan Barrette, the project aims to “beautify our roadways, and engage the youth in our community with valuable life skills.”
The art piece will be installed in front of Oro Valley Community Center. The importance of the location, according to Oro Valley Public Works Assistant Director Aimee Ramsay, derives from the fact that it will be “thematic of what that facility represents,” community, diversity and artistic creation.
The program has a history in the region. According to Matt Rolland, arts integration coordinator at Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance, SAACA integrated the program in 1998 and has previously facilitated the Transportation Art by Youth summer art in 2009, 2012 and 2015.
Teaching artists Hiro Tashima and Jason Butler, specialists in clay and metal, oversee the students’ work as they meet with members of local, residential and business communities, and the Oro Valley Town Council, for input. Student artists will incorporate the ideas they collect, and design a mosaic installation. The piece will include at least one free-standing sculpture, and the covering of walls with mosaic art that incorporates local culture and heritage.
Butler, a metal specialist teaching artist, has long been passionate about the arts. Along with his colleague, Tashima, he has previously worked on transportation projects. For them, the challenge with such project lies in “the very fast timeframe.”
“A lot of people will struggle to go from design to completion in two months,” Butler said.
Butler sees the summer program as a great opportunity for students to enjoy learning new skills in arts while they create a piece that will add a significant value to their town.
“I remember what it was like being at that age, loving arts and looking towards the future,” Butler said. “To come out into the community and work with community members, develop a design and then build something that’s going to be in the community for decades, is real fun.”
The first-hand, real world experience allows students to interact with artists and exchange ideas and knowledge, helping them gain artistic experience and work ethic.
Butler also seizes the opportunity to prove to students that they can pursue a career in art. He realizes this complexity “as art programs are not teaching students how to make money when they’re doing their art.” Butler hopes students can take this experience and develop future work and make a living out of it.
Student participation is competitive, and narrows down vacancies to accommodate 8-12 students. This year, all 10 applicants were accepted. In a rare coincidence, there’s a female majority.
Butler thinks this is due to the fact that females are becoming more “industrious.” “They’re looking for opportunities and are willing to work,” he said.
For Tashima, the project is an opportunity to demonstrate his “responsibility towards the community.”
“We are trying to respond to what the community needs,” Tashima said. “Our job is to make people’s dreams come true.”
Dalal Radwan is a University of Arizona journalism student and Tucson Local Media intern.