Student turns art into cash for hurricane victims

Home 2009 Archive Student turns art into cash for hurricane victims

Brandi Snodgrass

Published: April 26, 2006

When Hurricane Katrina hit last August, Ashley Spears, a PJC student, stepped up to the plate to raise money for some of its victims. 

Spears used the Greater Gulf Coast Arts Festival as a catalyst to raise the money.  Several years earlier, her mother had recommended Spears to Linda Gray, founder of the annual arts festival that occurs the first weekend of November.

Spears helped out at the arts festival doing free portraits for visitors.

In 2004, the festival was cancelled because of Hurricane Ivan.  When the festival came around in 2005, just a little over a month after Hurricane Katrina hit, Spears jumped on the chance to help out her fellow artists by raising money to replenish their art supplies.

“I think it’s outstanding that she saw the need and rose above.  It shows a high degree of unselfishness which is pretty amazing in this day and age,” Professor Michael Boles, her three dimensional design teacher, said of his student.

Spears received a $100 grant from Santa Rosa Art Association for the supplies she needed for the festival.  With those supplies and after the creation of several hundred portraits, Spears was able to raise more than $687.

The Pensacola News Journal caught wind of what Spears was doing and the story was later picked up by CosmoGirl, a magazine for young women. 

“Whenever they called me, I was Christmas shopping and I had to contain myself from excitement,” Spears said, as she recalled how she felt when receiving the news.

Cosmo Girl interviewed Spears over the phone and flew in a photographer to do a photo shoot.

“It was fun, I couldn’t stop laughing,” Spears said.

Spears was very excited to be represented in Cosmo Girl, bringing copies into the visual arts department for all to see, but even now that she is experiencing a bit of fame from a magazine that reaches millions of readers, she is not phased.

She has already been speaking with several private organizations and people and plans to continue to raise money at several events between now and this summer.

The people that will be receiving Spears’ blessings are in Waveland, Miss., one of the many towns devastated by Katrina.  She has already been speaking with Dana Bordelon, an advanced arts teacher at Hancock High in Waveland to set up a time to bring the arts supplies to the students.

“I’m going to be going and staying for a week or two with her and the students,” Spears said.