VOHC Art Program Seeing Growing Audience and Community Support

The people at Vocational Options of Hoke County (VOHC) are still seeing the benefits of an open house held there late last year. It’s no wonder why the program is still gaining community support.

Art decorates the building from floor to ceiling; literally. Custom built and painted cornhole boards get friendly competitions going, while dozens of canvases are decorating just about every wall. Large papier-mâché airplanes and butterflies dangle adding to the fun atmosphere. The ceiling tiles in the main entry hallway have been transformed from stale white squares to vibrant pieces bursting with color bright enough to stir up an appetite.

“Look up,” said Shelby Turner, creative arts specialist. “This one reminds me of a pop tart.”

Community leaders from every corner of Raeford were invited to the open house including city leaders and those in the medical and economic development industries, to tour the facility and learn about the VOHC art program.

One of those in attendance was Dennis Baxley, Raeford city manager. Baxley and many others were impressed with the artwork made by the people Monarch supports. So much so, on a visit to Regina Sutherland’s office, a local attorney in Raeford, Baxley noticed the art already hanging in her office and how the décor could be improved with the work from VOHC.

Sutherland took Baxley’s advice and visited VOHC. She was so moved by the art, she decided to host an upscale exhibit, with a catered dinner and invited plenty of her friends and people in the community to enjoy and purchase the artwork.

More than $1,800 worth of art was sold in two hours during the gala and gained additional exposure when it was covered by The News Journal (link to article). Monarch’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Jim Kelley, emphasized exposure as being a key element in making an impact on the community.

“The artists were there and were able to talk about the artwork with the people purchasing it. It was a really touching moment for both sides. It’s getting people to see us and that’s how you break down barriers,” Kelley explained.

“[The people we support] were very excited. Since then, we’ve seen more socializing among them when they’re here at VOHC. They seem to be more self-confident about themselves since participating in the art gala,” said Bruce Hurst, community engagement team leader at Monarch’s VOHC.

As word spread about the art exhibit in the community, employees of Dr. Karen Smith, recipient of the American Academy of Family Physician award of 2017, decided to visit VOHC to see the art, buying some pieces for themselves as well. Since then, Dr. Smith decided to display more artwork from VOHC in her office, the largest family practice in Hoke County. The art is in the main lobby and available for anyone to purchase, with proceeds going to the artists and back into the program at VOHC.

“We want to try and get our art out in the community,” said Hurst. “We started thinking about venues where there’s a lot of traffic. But we didn’t just say, ‘let us bring art’, we’re inviting people to come see the art first. And when they see the work, they’re just blown away by it,” said Hurst.

The daily art activities at VOHC involve learning different mediums with a focus on abstract expressionism. Turner has been teaching color theories, and how to utilize different tools and techniques.

One participant, Sidney Shaw, enjoys painting houses. They may look simple to some, but to those who truly appreciate art, there’s a place for his work. Abstract expressionism is an art form that allows for natural creativity, not to be persuaded in any way, which is why Turner says this method works and brings out the best in the people Monarch supports.

“Some people might look at it and say, ‘I can do that’, but you have famous artists in history like Willem de Kooning, who made his career out of trying to return to childhood. There is value to it that anyone with an appreciation for art would see. Their vision for their work is different than yours or mine might be. We can’t replicate it. On some level, that has to be explained as genius,” said Turner.

Much of the work purchased by Sutherland now has a greater audience. Artwork was donated to Don Steed Elementary, Sandhills Pediatric and Raeford City Hall. The art gala is helping form new partnerships as well. People supported at VOHC are now learning additional new skills and enjoying their time volunteering with the city manager’s office.

Plans to organize and hold another art exhibit are in the works tentatively for late spring or summer.

Posted on: Thursday April 13, 2017