June 27 2016 12:57 PM

REACH students get creative with ‘Pac-Man’ and ‘tree spirits’

MONDAY, June 27 — While we’re used to seeing art in a gallery, REACH Studio Art Center’s Teen Open Studio specializes in putting art in unexpected public places. The group’s latest project placed art installation in two Lansing community gardens.

“The teens are so creative,” said REACH instructor Dan Nunez, who coordinated the project. “They have different ideas all the time, and that helped with creating these different art pieces.”

Garden Projects Resource Garden, 2401 Marcus St., features a spirit theme, with 25 “tree spirits” installed in the trees, while the Riddle Elementary School Garden, located at 221 Huron St., has a “Pac-Man” theme. The garden features two giant Pac-Man sculptures that double as plant and flower displays.

Teen Open Studio projects are designed to add an educational angle to the students’ art making.

“The notion is to kindle a sense of wonder through these projects,” Nunez said.

As the teens worked on the project, Nunez discussed topics like placemaking and problem solving.

“You make community around you because you believe in it,” Nunez said. “These teens have had the opportunity to do that, through art.”

REACH Studio Art Center, a nonprofit community art studio, was founded in 2003. In REO Town. The studio offers a variety of art classes for children and adults. Its Teen Open Studio uses public art projects to help students understand community involvment. Since its launch in 2012, 30 weeks out of the year are dedicated to community art projects.

Emily Schirhart, 15, was heavily involved in the “Pac-Man” project, working with fiberglass to create the video game characters.

“There’s a lot of teamwork involved,” Schirhart said. “Doing these things together, just for the good of it, is awesome.”

Steven Erceg, 16, who helped primarily with the spirit-themed installation, learned how fragile sculptures can be.

“I’ve learned that it’s okay if something goes wrong,” Erceg said. “That’s art.”

This project gave Erceg the opportunity to create, as well as to learn from other peers and help others in the process.

“It’s important to tell someone they can do it,” he said. “You can do anything if you put your mind to it.”

While Schirhart has fun creating artwork, she finds REACH’s real value in the sense of community.

“The best thing about REACH is that everyone can be themselves,” Schirhart said. “No one is judged for how they look or dress, we all just accept each other’s ideas.”