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As outreach coordinator for Shoreline Moms Demand Action, Kathy Westgard, an artist, educator, and activist, is helping Shoreline Students Demand Action present a community event, Art Demands Action, on Saturday, May 11. (Photo by Pam Johnson/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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On Saturday, May 11, Kathy Westgard invites residents of all ages to encounter Art Demands Action, a student-driven, art-focused, community-connecting and fundraising event in support of gun safety.
First and foremost, this is a creative forum, not a protest, says Kathy, who is stewarding the program.
“It’s a celebration of community unifying and awareness for better,” she says. “It’s about gun safety, [but] no one wants peoples’ guns to be taken away.”
Set for Saturday, May 11 from 5 to 9 p.m. in Fellowship Hall at Guilford First Congregational Church, Art Demands Action is the first event and fundraiser developed by Shoreline Students Demand Action (SSDA), organized with assistance from Shoreline Moms Demand Action (SMDA).
As outreach coordinator for SMDA, Kathy, an artist, educator, and activist, helped develop the program with SSDA members, including high school students from Guilford and Madison.
“One of our focuses is that your voice is of value,” says Kathy. “And art seems to speak touchingly, movingly, inwardly, and says something strong to people in many different ways. So we thought this would be the most unifying, as well as the most awareness-providing, way. We’re hoping to get many perspectives, and everyone’s voice honored.”
With a diverse assembly of student, adult, and professional art on display, Art Demands Action will focus on the message of sensible gun ownership in a community-friendly forum that will also bring in performers, musicians, poets, and guest speakers. The event will also include refreshments and information to take away from representatives of many organizations. One info-sharing group will be SMDA, with a special focus on SMDA’s plans to participate in nationwide Wear Orange for Gun Safety days (June 7 to 9).
On May 11, all proceeds from art sales, silent auction, raffle items, and donations gathered during Art Demands Action will assist SSDA, SMDA, and their “mother” national organization, Moms Demand Action, to continue the cause of bringing sensible gun safety to all communities.
Kathy is particularly excited to see what two spectacular silent auction contributions might generate for the cause: a Tennessee Bar Association Law Day award-winning watercolor, Order Endures, by artist Earl Grenville Killeen, and an original painting by well-known shoreline artist Daniela Balzano. Both will be offered at opening bids of $1,000.
In addition, prints of Killeen’s piece, with a history explaining the gun-safety inspiration behind his art, will be available, with proceeds to benefit the event. Kathy says many community members and area artists have also generously contributed items to build the show and help build up proceeds.
“The art coming in is so community-oriented,” says Kathy. “There’s some things that are more about gun safety awareness, some that are more about the environment; there’s all sorts of issues people have felt strongly about. And then some of them are just about the charm of our wonderful community, and how safe places are important for nurturing our soul.”
Kathy also thanks Shoreline Arts Alliance for contributing all of the materials needed to hang the art for the event, which will feature some 30 works. Kathy is one of several photographers offering their work for the cause.
“It’s all going to a remarkably worthy cause,” says Kathy of proceeds that will be generated from everything Art Demands Action has to offer. “The idea is people will come in, look at art with some music playing while you do, and there’ll be some refreshments for you; there will be tabling of certain causes, and speakers and poets...and the words to take away from it are awareness, hope, and unity.”
One speaker will be Mike Song of the Ethan Miller Song Foundation (#songstrong), who, with the help of his wife Kristin, family, and community members, legislators, and activists, introduced Ethan’s Law as federal and state legislation this year in an effort to close current gun storage law loopholes, promote safe storage of firearms, and support gun safety education.
Among the students set to speak is Grace McFadden of Daniel Hand High School (DHHS) in Madison, says Kathy, who also has several other students to thank in the core group of SSDA group for their invaluable work on Art Demands Action. They include SSDA student liaisons Clara Meyer (Guilford High School [GHS]) and Kate Kline (DHHS) as well GHS students Lauren Walczyk and Julia Gangemi and DHHS students Jefferson Taylor and Dvora Reelich. Reelich, a student artist exhibiting at the event, also designed an event T-shirt students will be selling on May 11.
“They and all of these different students I have met and have been privileged to get to know at different [gun safety] rallies and events, are so impressive to me,” says Kathy.
A Guilford resident of seven years, Kathy moved here to be closer to her family, coming from her work in Washington, D.C. and Fairfax, Virginia. She taught art in grades K to 6 in Virginia and was one of the first art coaches and grant writers working in partnership with Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in D.C. for the program now known as Changing Education through the Arts (CETA).
“Educators from across the nation would come and ask, ‘How can we make art of value to the curriculum?’ We felt art of all kinds was the soul of every subject...We had 6th graders taking algebraic forms and using them to do choreography,” says Kathy.
SSDA members hope Art Demands Action will be the type of event that touches the soul of the community, she says.
“It’s about gun safety and all surrounding community issues, and uniting for better,” says Kathy. “This event is about life, so that’s how it should feel; that’s how it should look. And this town is about life, and it should be safe life.”
Art Demands Action takes place Saturday, May 11 from 5 to 9 p.m. in Fellowship Hall at Guilford First Congregational Church, 110 Broad Street. For more information, find Art Demands Action on Facebook, follow @art_demands_action on Instagram, or email email@example.com.
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