Youth arts collaborative seeks to help end violence

Spring Lake Park and Columbia Heights high schools for the first time are collaborating on a youth arts event to take a stand against domestic abuse and violence.

Spring Lake Park High School’s theater troupe, The Voice, will perform an original show “Just Kidding, Just Fine and Other Lies” at an upcoming youth arts event billed as “Beyond the Mirror: A Project to End Dating Violence Through Art, Education and Community.” Students from Spring Lake Park and Columbia Heights high schools will perform and display works delivering an anti-violence message. Members of The Voice are: back row, Jack Fish, Justin Clarkin, Will Kaiser, Gene Capocasa and Chris Falken; middle row, Chelsea Chilson, director Jennifer Bobbe and Mariah Leon; front row, Rachael Lehman, Stephanie Pi, Rebecca Nelson and Melissa Warme. Justine Borden is not pictured. Photo courtesy of Shelly Johnson

Spring Lake Park High School’s theater troupe, The Voice, will perform an original show “Just Kidding, Just Fine and Other Lies” at an upcoming youth arts event billed as “Beyond the Mirror: A Project to End Dating Violence Through Art, Education and Community.” Students from Spring Lake Park and Columbia Heights high schools will perform and display works delivering an anti-violence message. Members of The Voice are: back row, Jack Fish, Justin Clarkin, Will Kaiser, Gene Capocasa and Chris Falken; middle row, Chelsea Chilson, director Jennifer Bobbe and Mariah Leon; front row, Rachael Lehman, Stephanie Pi, Rebecca Nelson and Melissa Warme. Justine Borden is not pictured. Photo courtesy of Shelly Johnson

Billed as “Beyond the Mirror: A Project to End Dating Violence through Art, Education and Community,” the event will take place Tuesday, March 20 at the Columbia Heights High School Performing Arts Center and will be repeated Thursday, March 22, at Spring Lake Park High School’s Fine Arts Center. Doors open at 6 p.m. with performances starting at 7 p.m. Admission is free.

A subtheme of the event is Respect equals Love, or in teen texting terms, rspct = luv, a logo emblazoned on the sweatshirts of the teen participants.

Each household attending will receive a free book of poetry similarly titled “Beyond the Mirror,” penned by Blaine resident Marlene Jezierski.

Jezierski is founder and coordinator of the event. She started it because she has a passion for peace and believes strongly that peace begins in the home, she said. It is her hope that “Beyond the Mirror” will help to shed light on the often misunderstood psychological abuse victims undergo.

“I understand the power of the arts to change minds and hearts,” she said about delivering the anti-violence message in an artistic format.

Variety of presentations

Student drama, visual art, music, dance and the spoken word are among the presentations slated for the evening.

The idea of the event is to empower students and the community so they can make change against violent and abusive behavior, said Jennifer Bobbe, adviser of SLP High School’s The Voice, a theater troupe who will perform both evenings.

The 12-member troupe, which examines and performs solutions to social issues, will perform a 50-minute stage show titled “Just Kidding, Just Fine and Other Lies,” an original production created by the students. The piece showcases how to deal with dating violence and bullying.

“I think it’s a very authentic portrayal about what goes on in high school,” Bobbe said.

The piece draws attention to the serious effects of verbal abuse as a form of violence.

“It shows that the words we use against people are just as bad as a physical attack, but words are less visible,” Bobbe said.

Columbia Heights High School students, grades nine through 12, will share original poetry and stories on their thoughts and feelings about dating and domestic violence. One student plans to dance a hip-hop solo. A Hope and Healing Wall of student artwork will be on display. The project is a series of original oil crayon, framed drawings of word symbols in feel-good colors, said Shari Pack, teacher at CHHS and adviser to the high school’s students for the event.

“Dating and domestic violence are happening way too much,” Pack said. “I think it’s appropriate for anyone to look inside their (the students’) minds and know what’s going on right now. It’s a very real presence in some of their lives.”

Pack views the evening as an opportunity to raise awareness for a difficult subject that touches many.

“I think the event is unique in that it comes through the arts,” Pack said.

‘Images of Hope’

Also on display will be artwork, “From Sadness to Joyfulness,” created by children from Alexandra House, a women and children’s domestic abuse shelter in Anoka County.

Another piece will be a six-foot high pillar titled “Images of Hope.” The pillar is a combination of artwork created by a health care group involved in domestic violence awareness education. The group comprises dozens of advocates, victims, health care personnel and other concerned citizens.

Jezierski invites the community to attend the presentations.

“The community needs to be a part of ending unhealthy relationships,” she said.

About 40 students from both high schools are involved in the production and exhibit.

The two community events are sponsored by a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council. Other local donors are: Anoka County Child Abuse Prevention Council, Domestic Violence Council of Anoka County, Mercy & Unity Hospitals Foundation, Sexual Assault Action Team of Anoka County, John’s Auto Parts, Creating Community Youth Asset Group, HCMC Domestic Violence Intervention Advisory Board, the Alliance for a Violence-free Anoka County and Alexandra House.

Elyse Kaner is at elyse.kaner@ecm-inc.com

  • Ron Bellanti

    This article is more evidence that bullying is a national tragedy affecting young people across America and throughout Minnesota.

    We all need to take action against the source of bullying and let kids, parents, teachers, principals and politicians know that bullying is NOT okay. We all need to do something to make a difference.

    An amazing young singer-songwriter named Becca Levy is doing just that.

    She has started a music based anti bullying group called Right Now.

    Here’s a link to her video for a cover of “Right Now” by Van Halen. The purpose of the video is to promote awareness to kids using both music and the Internet. The video begins with a public service announcement and is full of statistics that people of all ages need to see.

    Becca lives in Washington, D.C. and just turned sixteen years old.

    Rightnowagainstbullying.com

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