GREENFIELD – Caris Young didn’t always love Greenfield.

Like many people her age, the 18-year-old once had dreams about moving to big cities. She has since changed her mind.

“They’re glamorous, but small towns are so much more personal and nice,” she said.

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Young is working to make Greenfield into the kind of community where youth have a voice and a place — and she is starting with art.

Young is the energy behind the upcoming student art exhibit at Twenty North Gallery, 20 N. State St. Young’s art — and the art of more than 20 other high school artists — will be on display when the gallery opens at 11 a.m. Saturday. A reception for the students will be held at 6:30 p.m. March 10 at the gallery.

Young, a senior at Greenfield-Central High School, serves as a student leader in the My Community, My Vision (MCMV) project, an initiative designed to fight the migration of adolescents and young adults from their communities to larger cities and even other states. My Community, My Vision consists of a partnership between the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority and Ball State University’s School of Urban Planning and promotes the idea that young people in Indiana should not have to leave their hometowns in order to achieve their dreams.

She said she believes in that vision and wants to help students get what they want and need out of their communities.

My Community, My Vision reached out to communities by offering small grants to individuals or groups with ideas for developing the next generation’s civic leaders. When she heard about the program, Jenna Wertman, associate planner for the city of Greenfield, realized the long-lasting impact it could have on the community and felt it was a good opportunity to involve Greenfield youth in the city planning process.

Wertman recognized the arts community in Greenfield as a supportive base for this initiative and worked to connect Greenfield-Central High School art students with the Hancock County Arts Council.

When she received word of the project, Greenfield-Central art teacher Lisa Sears recommended Young to lead the way. Sears, who has taught Young for the past four years, knew her student had first-hand experience that might prove useful. For two years, Young served as a volunteer member of the teen art council at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, where she worked on ways to make art more accessible to a younger generation.

“She’s incredibly independent and motivated,” Sears said.

Young, Wertman and Tiffany Gehrke, a Ball State Urban Planning Department student mentor, met with Nancy Leslie, president of the Hancock County Arts Council, to discuss the possibility of the council donating artist studio space for high school students in the organization’s basement in exchange for volunteer hours at the group’s Twenty North art gallery.

Leslie, noting an opening in the gallery’s exhibit schedule, also offered up the chance for Young to organize a youth art exhibit – and Young jumped at it.

Leslie has been impressed with Young’s initiative. She helped Young with the nuts and bolts of hanging a show in the gallery: organizing artwork release forms for the artists, hanging the artwork, even selecting artwork — but mostly she has given Young free rein to run her own show.

Young is excited about the upcoming exhibit. She has received art show entries from artists representing more than 40 pieces of 2-D and 3-D art.

Young stressed that the purpose of the show is to allow the student artists an opportunity to show their work to the public. No award ceremony is planned; none of the artwork is for sale because most of the work will be included in the students’ advanced placement college admission portfolios.

Wertman enjoys the opportunity to encourage young leaders and hopes giving them positive experiences in their home communities will make a difference in the long run.

“A lot of the projects and goals could affect their decision to stay or come back to this community later in life,” Wertman said.

Pull Quote

“Art defines the community, and it becomes the people’s art,” Caris Young, student artist, said.

If you go

What: Student art show

Where: Twenty North Gallery, 20 N. State St., Greenfield

When: Gallery is open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays; artist reception is at 6:20 p.m. March 10

Author photo
Christine Schaefer is arts editor and editorial assistant at the Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3222 or