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Paint battle to aid budding female artists

Cathy Dobson The young teen girls who graduate from the Valleyfield Art Club (VAC) take away more than creative instruction and a little art history.
Lauretta Webb of the Valleyfield Art Club with some art that inspired her to start teaching teens. An ‘art battle’ at Stokes Bay Grill and Bar is set for June 28 to raise funds for VAC. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson

The young teen girls who graduate from the Valleyfield Art Club (VAC) take away more than creative instruction and a little art history.

“They learn about taking responsibility for themselves and about giving back to their community,” says Valleyfield’s founder and volunteer teacher.

Three years ago, while still a student at the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD), Sarnia’s Lauretta Webb approached the principals of several local elementary schools.

She asked them to identify students with untapped artistic talent but no opportunity to pursue it.  Art supplies cost a lot, explains Webb.

“As a kid, we couldn’t always afford some things. I know the challenges of that.”

Webb began offering free art classes in her home for girls aged 12 to 15.

“They come twice a week for six to eight weeks. They must be on time. Actually I prefer 10 minutes early. They have to do their homework, and they have to pay it forward,” she said.

Webb keeps her classes small. In three years, she’s had 20 graduates from her after-school and summer programs.

“We talk about the seven habits of highly effective teens, including being accountable,” Webb said. “We talk about the value of giving back to the community that has supported this program. I’ve seen some awesome results.”

The Valleyfield Art Club is named for the street on which Webb lives and teaches her classes.

She tells the story of one young student whose attendance was really poor at school.  But when the girl joined Valleyfield, she became motivated to get up early and make the two-mile trek to Valleyfield on time. When Webb realized the student had no transportation, she found a sponsor who provided a bicycle.

“We’ve also had bus passes donated for some of the girls.”

So far, Valleyfield has taken only budding female artists, but a March Break Camp for young teens of both genders is planned in 2016.

The club operates on Webb’s goodwill and the private sponsorship of individuals. But the cost of art supplies is escalating, prompting Webb to launch her first fundraiser.

She calls it VAC Attack, an event that is pitting 10 artists against each other to create the best piece of artwork possible in 20 minutes, then auction them off.  Two OCAD artists, two Sarnia artists, as yet unnamed, three teen artists and three from the audience will compete at Stokes By the Bay, beginning at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, June 28.

The event is accompanied by a bike, walk and run, with participants paying $25 each. It costs $5 to watch the paint battle.

Webb says individuals and teams of 10 are welcome to register by going to Facebook (Vac Attack), emailing at [email protected] or calling 519-542-2637.

“Valleyfield Art Club is empowering,” Webb said.  “It gives my students confidence and it helps with problem solving.

“Art is healing,” she added. “A lot of studies show it’s great for mental health and we all know that in Sarnia there’s a big need.”

Do you have a feature idea about something that enriches our cultural community?  Contact Cathy Dobson at [email protected] or 226-932-0985.

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