Chris Campagna, a Chicago-based artist lending his time and talents to events such as Chesterton’s “Hooked on Art Festival,” thinks participating in an artistic endeavor can help those struggling through personal hardships.
“People may have bad things going on, but I think art can take the bad and make things good,” he said. “There are many forms of art, and I think that art, on a basic level, can change people’s lives.”
Kicking off at 9 a.m. Sept. 29 at Chesterton’s Thomas Centennial Park and running through 6 p.m., “Art” is the brainchild of, and serves as a fundraiser for, the region-based Frontline Foundations.
Founded in 1997 and with offices in Chesterton and Valparaiso, Frontline Foundations is a non-profit organization which offers a myriad of programs and support to individuals between 18 and 25 years of age in recovery from substance abuse.
Over the course of the last 15 years, frontline has provided individual and group counseling and recovery workshops, and work with medical and mental health professionals in their goal of guiding their young adult clientele to a clean and sober life.
Art has also played a significant role in Frontline’s treatment of many of its clientele. The organization conducts art workshops and encourages art as an outlet for many of those in their care.
“It’s really pretty fascinating when you have a young man or a young woman come in, and a lot of times their work when they start out will be dark and maybe even frustrated and hopeless,” said Frontline executive director Amber Hensell. “And it’s amazing to see the transformation (in their art) as they continue to get healthy.
“For them, it’s a way to get what’s on the inside out,” she added. “A lot of times, it’s something that may not be as easy for everyone, to be able to express themselves.”
Frontline, for the last four years, has held art events to raise awareness for their organization; most recently, Frontline staged an art and music festival at Valparaiso’s Porter Health Amphitheatre in May.
For their inaugural “Art” festival at Thomas Centennial Park, approximately 20 artists will be showcasing their original art, and nearly a dozen artists will be creating everything from mixed media pieces to acrylic art to graffiti art on site.
Additionally, craft vendors, family-oriented activities, food vendors and live music are scheduled for Frontline’s “Art” festival. A juried exhibition, with the winning pieces selected by festival attendees and offering a $500 award to the winning selection, is another festival highlight.
“We’re trying to incorporate arts in general, art of every kind, in a family environment,” said “Art” co-chair Patty Raffin. “Chesterton has embraced what we’re trying to do as far as bringing families and bringing the community together to work towards eradicating the drug problem in the community all around.”
Residing in Chicago’s Pullman neighborhood, Campagna is a self-taught artist whose works have been seen at venues ranging from Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry and Las Vegas’ Hard Rock Café. Campagna also participated in events such as Chicago’s “Cows on Parade” fundraiser and last year’s “Pigs on Parade” fundraiser in west suburban Lemont, to name just a few.
In the past, Campagna served on the board of Art Therapy Connection, a Chicago-based organization that offers art and mental health services to Windy City youngsters, and is currently on the board of Inspiration Café, which provides services and meals to individuals and families in financial straits on Chicago’s north side.
Campagna was introduced to Frontline through friends, who are active within the organization. “Frontline doesn’t take the money and give it to the administrators, they take the money and give it to the children, and that alone says a lot,” he said. “There are a lot of charity events that do take a lot of the money and it doesn’t go for the right cause, where with Frontline, all of the money goes to helping these kids, and that’s what I love about them.”
“In these trying days, it’s hard to really find the right charity, and it’s people like Frontline that you want to support.” Campagna is planning to paint a poster at Frontline’s “Art” festival this year and is one of 12 works he is creating over the course of the next several months for the benefit of Frontline. The works, all Chesterton-themed, will be sold by Frontline as a calendar, with the organization receiving proceeds from the calendar’s sales.
“Any community that will come together to help their children, any community that’s going to come together to make their community better and stronger, that’s a community I want to visit,” Campagna said. “It seems like their town is behind (Frontline) all the way, so why wouldn’t you want to help them?”
Joining Campagna at the festival is Nancy Pochis-Bank. Based in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood, Pochis-Bank is planning to create a chalk mural on the pavement on the festival grounds.
For Pochis-Bank, aligning with Frontline is important from both artistic and personal standpoints; this spring, she lost a cousin as result of his struggles with addiction.
“It’s a very important and distressing situation, but I’m excited to be doing something proactive and helping out the organization,” Pochis-Bank said.
“I think (Frontline) is a really hopeful organization,” she added. “I think all the artists that are involved in (the festival) are taking that message to heart, and it should be a really uplifting, positive day.”