Artists connect for youth

Metal sculpture by Jason Rose will be included in a benefit show and sale of fine art Thursday through Sunday. Proceeds go to the Youth Connection. - Cynthia Woolbright
Metal sculpture by Jason Rose will be included in a benefit show and sale of fine art Thursday through Sunday. Proceeds go to the Youth Connection.
— image credit: Cynthia Woolbright

Any given afternoon the corner of Third and Anthes in Langley is one happening place.

It is there, in the basement level of the Langley United Methodist Church, where South Whidbey youth know they have a place to call their own.

This is the Hub — where laughter and conversation flow freely. It is more than meets the eye. It’s a mix of study hall, safe haven, public forum and community classroom. It is also but the tip of the iceberg for South Whidbey Youth Connection programs.

To make sure the programs of the South Whidbey Youth Connection continue to help local youth, more than 70 Whidbey artists will band together this week for a fifth annual fine art show to raise money for the South Whidbey Youth Connection.

The four-day art show and sale begins Thursday and continues through Sunday to benefit the South Whidbey Youth Connection (SWYC) direct services programs.

The annual event begins with an artist reception 6-9 p.m. Thursday. Show hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.

Around 200 works will be exhibited, covering a wide range of media from paintings, glass, sculpture, fabric, photography, and more. The work will range from small scale to large with values ranging from the tens, hundreds and even thousands of dollars.

“They really bring some of their best pieces to this show,” said Michael Stadler, show coordinator.

Twenty-something Michael Stadler has been a Youth Connection board member for the last three years.

“I grew up here, I was at the youth center all time — that’s how a lot of my free time was spent,” Stadler said. “This is my way of giving back to something that was a big part of my life.”

Sponsor artists for the show include Georgia Gerber, Callahan McVay, Bart Rulon, Fara Mazzola Wexler, Briony Morrow-Cribbs, Lee Wexler, Jerry Hill, Dan Karvasek, Deon Matzen, Michael Stadler, Peter Wolf, Dan and Joi LaChausse, David Levi, Gail Gwinn, Jane Winslow, Patti White, Rob Adamson, Rob Shouten and Joan Govedare. They will be joined by additional artists in their donations of works.

“If you go to a gallery there’s maybe ten people showing their work at a time,” Stadler said. “To have this many artists’ work in one place is quite unique.”

The event is timed to coincide with the annual Choochokam festival of the arts that will be held Saturday and Sunday in downtown Langley.

“We like the fact that we’re helping to keep the tradition of Choochokam be about art and artists,” Stadler said of the scheduling.

For the best selection, Stadler recommends coming to the reception.

“That’s when everything will be available and people can have an opportunity to get to know the art better because the artists will be there to answer questions.”

Stadler said artists participating are required to donate a minimum of 50 percent of the cost of a piece to the youth center, but many choose to donate higher percentages — some up to 100 percent.

“Each year the artists are incredibly supportive for an extended period of time,” said Holly Morgan, Youth Connection executive director. “From donating work to coming down and helping us hang it so it looks like a professional gallery, they go out of their way to help the Youth Connection.”

The South Whidbey Youth Connection’s roots first took hold on South Whidbey in 1989.

That’s when a group of parents, teachers, counselors and local health care professionals decided there needed to be a local agency to advocate for youths age 12-18. The Youth Connection became an official nonprofit in 1990.

It now provides a healthy and safe after-school place to hang out for students at the “Hub,” an after-school drop in program for middle school and high schoolers. Previously simply called the “Drop Inn,” it provides a safe place for youth where they can play air hockey, finish homework, participate in a planned art activity, take a computer class or simply hang out.

SWYC also coordinates “Seeds of Change: Partners for a Drug-Free Community,” which works to combat addiction in the community and operates a tutor-mentor program in the local schools.

“I like to think that we do a good job of providing kids an opportunity to obtain academic support, social support and development as well as leadership opportunites,” Morgan said.

This year, the Youth Connection will mobilize to work on issues affecting South Whidbey youth. That will mean more Seeds of Change activities, an emphasis on the Tutor Mentor Program, Youth Council expanding its coffee houses, creating an addiction impact panel and examining how the direct programs can increase service to the community.

Currently, the Youth Connection serves approximately half of the 6-12 graders in the South Whidbey School District, Morgan said.

“We’re always looking to serve more youth and in more varied capacities,” Morgan said.

The art show proceeds are solely for direct service programs; the Hub, Youth Council and Tutor Mentor Program. Last year’s show grossed approximately $22,000 with $13,000 going directly to the Youth Connection’s local programs. The goal for this year’s show is $25,000.

Local community fundraising brings in around 25 percent of the funding needed to run the Youth Connection, with corporate and foundation grants contributing around 30 percent, governmental grants around 30 percent and around 6 percent coming from the United Way.

This money is then broken down to fund the Youth Connection’s annual budget of around $335,000, with around 50 percent of that, or $130,000, for the local direct service programs.

“As the community continues to grow we will work to respond to the kids’ needs,” Morgan said.

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