Reception Saturday, February 7 from 6–7:30pm
The art exhibit on display at South Stage Cellars right now is a truly special one. Every year the Cellar’s “Rising Stars” music competition benefits a local nonprofit, and this year they chose LIFE Art, a Medford-based program helping Rogue Valley youth overcome a wide range of difficulties by learning to paint with guidance from artist mentors. I had the opportunity to meet Phil Ortega, founder of LIFE Art, when he and several of the program’s mentors and students were hanging their show. I was deeply moved by the story of LIFE Art and impressed not only by the caring and generous heart of this compassionate man, but the overall quality, ingenuity and expression in the youths’ paintings.
In the spring of 2010, Mr. Ortega was working late at night in the shop where he fixes old cars as a hobby when he heard a sound behind the building. Stepping outside, he discovered a group of teens tagging abandoned rail cars. He asked what they were doing, and they told him they were painting the tag name of a youth who committed suicide in 2009. Among the taggers were the late youth’s brother and cousin. Recognizing their genuine need to create a memorial for their deceased relative and friend, as well as some real artistic talent, Mr. Ortega bought the boys blank canvases, brushes and paint that very day to help them channel the memory of their loved one onto something permanent. He then began thinking about how he could develop a program to support kids like these.
The LIFE Art program uses visual and creative arts as a means for youth to express their feelings and communicate with others about their experiences. Art projects address the multiplicity of the issues young people are involved in. Factors including difficult family relationships and school experiences, substance use, community risk factors (i.e., gangs, criminality) and cultural pressures are all addressed through guided discussions with caring adults and LIFE Art Mentors.
South Stage Cellars Rising Stars has chosen to donate all the profits from the 2015 music competition to this amazing local nonprofit. We hope you plan to come to Jacksonville on February 7, 2015 to enjoy our Chinese New Year parade and celebration. There will be additional arts and cultural opportunities, including an authentic Origami class at Art Presence Art Center, next to the historic Courthouse. But whatever you do, come to South Stage Cellars at 125 S. Third Street from 6–7:30pm for a reception for the LIFE Art youth artists! Join the teens, mentors and director of LIFE Art, enjoy their work along with live music and complimentary appetizers, and consider helping to empower one of their young artists with a purchase—If there are any left to buy! Paintings were selling as they were placed on the walls. Ortega looks forward to the event, and to highlighting the art and mentorships LIFE Art encourages. “We might even have some poetry or a short story reading by a teen if we can,” he added. The LIFE Art exhibition will continue through the end of March at South Stage Cellars Tasting Room.
SSC Rising Stars, now in its 4th year, was the brainchild of Porscha Schiller, Tasting Room and Marketing Events Manager of South Stage Cellars. The competition has grown every year until it outgrew the tasting room altogether. It will now be held across the street, upstairs in historic Redmen’s Hall. Schiller was quoted in the Jacksonville Review as saying, “Everyone involved in the music competition and LIFE Art is extremely proud of the work these kids are doing and so very grateful to the community for the amazing support this life-changing nonprofit group is getting!”
Tickets for the 4th-annual South Stage Cellars Rising Stars Competition are on sale now at South Stage Cellars in Jacksonville, the Music Coop in Ashland and online at www.southstagecellars.com. For more information, call 541-899-9120.
More About LIFE Art
Mr. Ortega wrote us, saying, “We started with the support of the Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention Grant and Jackson County Suicide Prevention Coordinator Michelle Morales. Their guidance was instrumental in creating something unique. We started with a few kids and have grown to serving over 200 local kids every month. We help kids cope with a multitude of stresses. Suicide prevention was our starting focus, but we have grown to include any kid with the idea that group art projects create a certain climate so that the kids are not identified as fragile, but as artists.”
The Garrett Lee Smith (GLS) Memorial grant was awarded to several counties in the state of Oregon from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in 2010. The grants became available through the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act of 2004, the first federal suicide prevention program targeted towards youth. The Act is named after the son of former Oregon senator Gordon H. Smith, who took his own life in 2003.
“I manage LIFE Art so that kids can learn coping skills through art and guided mentorships. I believe that art tells a story, and when kids can demonstrate their voice through art, it relives a sense of hurt for some, joy for most…but when people admire the art they have created, it Validates Their Feelings! That is the LIFE Art mission in a nutshell.” ~Phil Ortega
LIFE Art Today
Thanks to a grant from The Providence Health Plan Community Benefit Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation, LIFE Art in partnership with On Track opened the LIFE Track Youth Center & Art Gallery at 106 S. Grape Street in Medford. This project gives youth a space to express themselves creatively, as well as having a place where they can drop in and find the support of caring mentors. In addition, the center offers FREE art classes every Saturday for youth 10-22 years old. “It’s a cool project, but it is coming to an end this year. LIFE Art is looking for a new place to call home starting this summer. My house served as a place for the kids for a few years, but we are way too big for that anymore!” says Ortega, “Hopefully we will find a place where we can partner with other artists for various art projects and a sharing of experiences and skills can take place. Maybe one of your readers has a space in mind we could lease.”
Ortega tells us that new LIFE Art mural projects are underway, in partnership with the Gang Task Force, which is comprised of many Jackson County agencies working to help connect teens to programs that encourage better lifestyle choices. The murals, painted on large scale canvases, will be displayed around our community starting with Central Art Supply in Medford. They will help us display the art on the exterior of their building as a way to encourage teens to create more ART ON Canvas. The art will also be used as the backstage art to SSC Rising Star Events.
Funding ends October 15, 2015 for LIFE Art’s other programs:
G.E.M.S. (Girls Expressing Many Strengths) is an after school program geared toward helping young teens learn to cope with life stressors through artistic expression and group support. The program is in partnership with Eagle Point School District and Medford School District.
One–2–One Mentorship Program
One-2-One Mentorship is designed to connect with students who need attention beyond group activities. Many of our participants are dealing with real life issues and struggles around poverty, relationships, family, substance abuse, and education. Connecting with certain students on a regular basis establishes a dependable connection with a caring adult role model.
Art With A Purpose
The Art with a Purpose sessions are about creating art that is focused on social issues that students face daily. Suicide prevention, self-image, anti-bullying campaigns, gang prevention and promoting civility are all topics that can be better addressed by our model: “Marketing for Kids Created by Kids.”
Now five years old, the LIFE Art program is in partnership with United Way, Jackson County Health and Human Services, Una Voz, Eastburn Photography LLC, Lenart Art Education Foundation and Oregon Community Foundation (Latino Partnership Project). Mr. Ortega and the LIFE Art staff and mentors thank Jackson County School District 9 Leadership and Staff for making it possible to offer their services within our schools and for the partnerships that support our students.
Come to the reception ~ meet Phil Ortega and the LIFE Art youth artists and mentors in person to learn more! You can help…come to the Rising Stars music competition nights, from which 100% of the profits will benefit LIFE Art!