On the evening of Thursday, April 11th, students, Looking Glass staff, board members, and local artists gathered in the quaint gymnasium of Riverfront School and Career Center for the inaugural Riverfront Art Walk. Over 100 submissions of student artwork were displayed in the gym-turned-gallery. A steady stream of engaged patrons flowed through the space, taking their time to observe the stunning art pieces.
Two of the artists, Alexis Britt and Nick Campbell, graciously agreed to be interviewed about their art and their experience as students at Riverfront.
Meet Nick. Nick Campbell, a senior at Riverfront, is a person who sees technicolored beauty in oily, rain-soaked asphalt.
Nick started attending Riverfront at the beginning of his sophomore year, when he moved up to Eugene from California to live with his older siblings after his mother was diagnosed with cancer. His mom lost her battle with the disease right around Thanksgiving of 2017. “There wasn’t a whole lot to be thankful for that year,” Nick shared. Despite the difficult circumstances, Nick began to thrive living in Eugene and attending Riverfront School. “People are nice here,” he exclaimed, speaking both about Eugenians in general, and the students and staff at Riverfront.
Nick is on track to earn his diploma next fall, at which point he will enroll in Job Corps. Once in the program he will be furthering his education in either automotive repair or culinary arts, both interests of his. Right now it seems he’s leaning towards culinary arts. Though he prefers baking, his interest in cooking was further sparked by participating in the Riverfront Culinary Arts Program. When he completes the program he plans to return to Eugene, at which point the program will help connect him with both employment and housing. He made the decision to enroll in Job Corps a few weeks prior to the Art Walk. He feels optimistic, excited, and a sense of relief by having a clearly defined vision of his future. Much like the colorful pathway he captured in a digital photograph displayed at the Art Walk, his future pathway is looking bright.
Meet Alexis. Alexis, a junior at Riverfront, transferred from Willamette High to Riverfront her sophomore year. She was having a hard time at Willamette, making it difficult to maintain good attendance. At Riverfront, she is thriving. Everything related to art is her favorite subject in school. She is inspired by Picasso’s Blue Period, explaining that the Blue Period involves a series of paintings produced when the famous artist was going through a hard time for a few years.
She explained that the piece above actually started out as a school worksheet. She enjoys doodling and liked where this particular drawing was going so she decided to complete the piece with some paint.
She spent most of her spring break creating this one of a kind acrylic on canvas, featuring some of her favorite symbols: skulls, wolves, triangles, roses, and fire.
Upon graduating, Alexis plans to attend a tattoo academy and aspires to open up her own tattoo shop in the future. She would prefer to open a shop somewhere other than Eugene. “It’s too crowded here. I’d prefer to live somewhere more spread out, where I can be closer to nature. Nature is inspiring to me,” she said decisively.
Nick and Alexis are just two of the hundreds of amazing youth served by Riverfront annually. Riverfront provides alternative education and vocational training to at-risk youth who face multiple barriers and have slipped through the cracks in the conventional education system. The vast majority of our students and program participants have endured through significant histories of trauma and socioeconomic barriers. The trials and tribulations these youth face are very real, and many of the art pieces captured raw emotions undoubtedly felt by the youth.
While many of the works had dark undertones, there were also many pieces that evoked sentiments of resiliency, and the strength to overcome hardships.
That is what Riverfront is all about. Uplifting and empowering at-risk youth by providing them with the tools necessary to overcome adversity.
The inaugural Art Walk was the brain child of Cheryl Shaw, the College and Career Readiness Coordinator for Riverfront School. Deanna Goodrich teaches classes related to the arts, including art history and digital photography. Her classroom walls were quickly becoming filled with student art pieces, and she thought that the impressive works should be admired by more than just those who visit her classroom. Cheryl had the idea to open it up to all youth served at Riverfront, not just the students, such as the youth who participate in the Job Training Program and Independent Living Program. “I just thought, we need to get more people through our doors. People should come and see for themselves what Riverfront does and who we serve,” explained Cheryl.
Youth who wanted to participate were provided a canvas, and the idea caught like wildfire. Deanna shared, “We were honestly surprised by the amount of youth who wanted to participate. We had to keep going out to purchase more canvases!”
A big thank you to Nick and Alexis for agreeing to be interviewed, Deanna and Cheryl for planning such a wonderful event, and all the youth who submitted their inspiring artwork.