New Art Club Seeks to Serve Previously Underserved Communities

Dobbs University Center. Photo by Jason Oh/ Staff
Art Awakens is currently seeking an official charter from the Emory Student Government Association. Photo by Jason Oh/ Staff

“I just want as many students to have access to the arts as possible,” said College sophomore Jenifer Norwalk, who is in the process of founding Art Awakens, an organization that aims to provide a creative outlet to individuals in nursing homes, hospitals and homeless shelters.

The members of Art Awakens, currently undergoing the process to receive an official charter from the Emory Student Government Association for the club, work with the elderly during visits to nearby nursing homes, but the students will soon travel to local hospitals in order to extend outreach to a larger variety of patients. Projects will include making paper snowflakes, weaving, painting and embroidering.

“This project will provide the means for these people to engage in art projects, while allowing them to express themselves, relax and enjoy the creative process of making art,” College freshman and Vice President of Art Awakens Alex Nazzari wrote in an email to the Wheel.

According to Norwalk, an internship with the Orlando Museum of Art (OMA) last summer inspired her to create Art Awakens when she arrived back on Emory’s campus in order to continue her experiences with art and service. The Emory College Center for Creativity and the Arts awarded Art Awakens a grant in October that allowed the organization to purchase art supplies. Since then, the organization has reached out to local nursing homes in order to organize future cooperation and has promoted membership in the Emory community by informing the student body of the organization’s purpose and role in the neighboring Atlanta community.

Although Art Awakens is still in the beginning stages of development, the organization has already worked with nearby nursing homes, including Budd Terrace at Wesley Woods.

Norwalk has also worked with other organizations, including Creative Connections and Art’s the Spark, allowing her to work with children with learning disabilities and autism, as well as adults with memory or neurological impairments, on art projects, according to OMA’s website; Art Awakens aims to draw from these experiences and begin work with individuals facing situations similar to those with whom Norwalk interacted with during her internship.

The organization will also establish a connection with the Atlanta Coalition for the Homeless in the future, which will allow members to expand their outreach to more members of the Atlanta community, similar to Norwalk’s previous experience in leading art projects for homeless youth through the Orlando Coalition for the Homeless. The organization will also forge partnerships with the Autism Center and Winship Cancer Institute.

Emory students will benefit from this program by experiencing one-on-one interactions with patients, enabling them to gain new perspectives on what others are going through, a quality that makes them better friends, family members and community members, according to Norwalk. Norwalk also said that patients will benefit as well by engaging in a universal activity that individuals of all backgrounds can enjoy together despite their differences.

“Every [patient] I have worked with so far stands out to me,” Norwalk said. “Everyone has been so full of life and personality despite difficult life circumstances.”

The members of Art Awakens are also excited for opportunities for growth, which include extending the program to other schools in Georgia.

“I just want more people and nursing homes to be involved,” Norwalk said, citing the organization’s ability to provide patients with access to the arts as “one of the most rewarding things.”

Nazzari agreed that she is excited to “connect [with] a wide range of people” and share her personal interest in art with others, “allowing [patients] to use art through their healing process.”

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