This semester, Lehigh students Courteney Parry, ’22, and Benjamin Santos, ’22, started Artists for Change with the goal of making Bethlehem children feel more a part of their community through art.
The club is open to all students, regardless of their artistic talent or experience. Both Parry and Santos shared a desire to make a positive impact within the Bethlehem com
munity through poetry, graphic design and illustration.
Despite trying out many extracurriculars on campus, Parry found herself turning to art in her free time to destress from her busy life on campus.
She reached out to a few of her friends, including Santos, who also enjoyed doing different types of art to relieve stress, and together they were able to start Artists For Change with faculty adviser Nick Christy.
Parry, president of Artists for Change, and Santos, who is vice president, both had different project ideas in mind. Parry wanted to teach art to not only Lehigh students, but also students from nearby schools.
Santos wanted to host a banquet and invite students from the Bethlehem community to showcase their art. He also wanted to provide them with the opportunity to speak to professors about applying to colleges and learn about higher education opportunities.
The club partnered with Broughal Middle School, where members were able to connect with students and learn more about their backgrounds. Santos was surprised to learn how little the students knew about Lehigh and he felt it was important for many of the local students to see how many opportunities existed within their local community.
Parry said the club was different than many she had participated in at Lehigh.
“It was really relaxing, rather than another structured, stressful extracurricular,” Parry said.
Santos hopes this club will provide an environment where students feel comfortable sharing their artwork and he hopes to get other students involved.
Before Lehigh transitioned to remote learning, Artists for Change hosted a few in-person meetings which consisted of art lessons and tutorials. During remote learning, the e-board has been trying to keep up with its art tutorials through Instagram live.
Parry taught sketching techniques using different pencils and Santos did a live tutorial on freestyle rap.
Artists for Change was started this semester, so they did not have a lot of members or Instagram followers, but they have gained over 300 followers so far.
“We should take advantage of this,” Parry said. “We’re all sitting at home. People are bored. I know people who didn’t have time to do art during the school year, but I thought they’re probably doing it now.”
Parry thought an Instagram art challenge with monetary prizes could provide students with an incentive to create more art and would keep the executive board busy.
“It’s like a relief almost,” Parry said. “The whole idea was just to get people engaged with one another and doing something productive rather than sitting at home depressed in this gloomy situation.”
Christy provided the executive board with some funds for prizes. The Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Lehigh University Art Galleries also contributed funds for the challenges’ prizes, which totaled $450.
The Instagram challenge had two different categories: performance and visual arts. The performance category consisted of poetry, rap, dancing and all performance arts submissions. For the visual arts category they received submissions that ranged from photography, collages, graphic designs, drawings and paintings.
For each category, they had two prizes: most submissions and most creative.
The club also held a pop-up popularity contest, in which students submitted their artwork and sent friends to the club’s page to vote for them. Santos said at one point during the contest, their Instagram page had more than 350 views, which was more than any other day.
Grace Vigorito, ‘22, was the winner of this contest. Vigorito submitted a collage she made with pictures of her and her friends from school, and was excited about winning money for doing something she loves.
Vigorito said she is going to officially join the club when she arrives back on campus after her positive experience with the club through its Instagram challenge.
“The goal is to make it less of a traditional club, and more like a community for artists, like a space,” Parry said. “People can come out and enjoy it, but without high commitment.”
The club’s executive board is full of good friends and has Zoom meetings and takes turns running the Instagram.
Before COVID-19, Artists for Change had a fundraiser planned with the local nonprofit organization, Project Silk. The club was collaborating with the Student Senate’s Bethlehem Outreach Committee to get artwork from local public and charter schools to have their art displayed in a gallery on campus.
Santos said the goal of the fundraising event was to use the funds Lehigh provides to its clubs to help the Bethlehem community.
“In Bethlehem, healthy and affordable food options are scarce and not easily accessible,” Santos said. “I wanted to simply use the massive amount of money that Lehigh gives each club to host events like ice cream socials and banquets, where we can use the money to feed people that normally wouldn’t have a consistent, healthy amount of food.”
Parry was upset to cancel their event, Say It Out Loud, which was scheduled for March 23.
They had eight outside performances lined up for the event. In total, the event had around 15 younger students from charter schools in the community who were scheduled to perform. Before the performance, Artists for Change planned to provide the visiting students with a free dinner at Rathbone and a tour of campus.
“I hope this club lasts longer than we’re on campus,” said
the treasurer of the club. “I would hope that more underclassmen join the club so that we could form a community that lasts even after Courtney and Ben graduate. I hope our club can continue to have a positive influence on Bethlehem.”