Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

October 7, 2013

Art for Inspiration

Students reach out to those affected by addiction

Mike James
The Independent

WESTWOOD — Some art students at Fairview High School are getting in on the ground floor of a website devoted to helping people suffering from addiction.

The students, about 80 in all, are contributing artwork and other creative products for the site, which seeks to bring hope and comfort to those who are addicted, have been addicted or know someone who is addicted.

They and their art teacher, Chad Stanley, agreed to help add content to the site because they valued its theme of providing a gathering spot for those who have been touched by addiction.

The site, touchtogether.org, was conceived as “a different way of looking at a touchy subject,” said Eddie Dugas, a U.S. Army recruiter who until recently worked out of the Ashland recruitment office.

Dugas is one of a group of like-minded people who banded together because they had been affected in some way by addiction. Dugas said he began pondering the idea a couple of years ago because he has had friends and relatives with drug problems.

Also, although the site is not affiliated with the Army, Dugas said drug problems are an issue in service life.

The site’s creators wanted it to be a broad collaborative effort, drawing on the experiences and thoughts of its visitors. Visitors may register and create a personal story page, and once registered may communicate with one another via private messaging.

There are pages on the site for posting questions, inspirational thoughts and other content.

That is where the students come in. They are creating art  they’ll submit to Dugas; he will use it to develop pages on the site, which is still under development.

Four of the students gathered at Fairview High Wednesday to discuss their contributions. Senior Myranda Webb and junior Gabriel Lowe both took their subject from the website’s title with drawings of clasped hands. Erin Edwards used creative typography to visually enhance a quote from the Beatles classic “All You Need is Love” — “I just love that song,” she said — and Tessa Jacobs submitted a surreal drawing of a multilimbed man: “He’s releasing his inner demons,” she said.

The students were drawn to the site’s vision of help and comfort. The word they used most often was “inspiring.”

“To know that you can help other people by drawing is inspiring,” Lowe said.

“It’s uplifting. If you’re having a bad day, you can go to the site and maybe see a picture of a smiling face and your day gets better,” Webb said.

In fact, the students were grateful for the request to help, because addiction touches almost everybody’s family and friends, Lowe said.

And with drugs being a growing problem in the region, the site should be valuable, Edwards said.

Visitors to the site should come away with optimism, according to Jacobs. “Things will get better because you have people to help,” she said.

The initial offering of artwork is just the beginning, Stanley said. His students want to continue contributing throughout the school year, he said. He is expecting to receive computers in his classroom so they can generate digital art too.

Students also will help the site’s organizers spread the word by telling their families and friends about it.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.