With floral-printed scarves and triangle decorated bow ties, business sophomore Bridgeen Shapton brings her self-started community service project, BeauTIEful, to Michigan State and the greater Lansing area.
She’s raising money for the Refugee Development Center, or RDC, in Lansing, an educational nonprofit that works with around 2,500 refugees and immigrants a year to help settle and succeed in the U.S.
This project has groups of students participate in workshops to create artwork that Shapton uses as designs for scarves and bow ties to sell and raise money for the group.
Shapton has partnered with textile company Printed Village Chicago, DreaMSU and the MSU Broad Art Lab for the second phase of her project.
Connecting with students
For the first phase of her project, Shapton worked with students at Congress Elementary School in Grand Rapids, where she hosted workshops for the students to make artwork that she then used as patterns on scarves and bow ties to sell.
The proceeds of these products went right back to the students who designed them and their art department.
“I decided I wanted to work with kids at an underserved elementary school to support their art program,” Shapton said. “I just thought it would be cool and awesome for the kids to see their artwork on as something that is meaningful or something that other people wanted.”
The patterns created by the students of Congress Elementary were able to raise more than $1,200 for their art program.
After her first success, Shapton took the opportunity to reinstate the project at MSU.
“I found out about it once her application came through and then met with her to hear more about it and see how we could put on the event or project again in this area,” MSU Broad Art Museum Public Engagement Coordinator Britany Benson said.
Once she teamed up with the Art Lab, they were able to get in contact with the RDC about the project.
“We have done a lot of work in partnership with several MSU projects,” Executive Director of the RDC Erika Brown-Binion said. “But this beautiful beauTIEful project came to us, really out of the blue, they found us as a local charity that they were interested in supporting because of their interest in refugees and immigrants. And so from initial planning sessions, we developed a program that would be appropriate with the goals of the project and with our students.”
Students who attend the RDC’s programs were able to participate in the workshops. This collection features their artwork in eight different designs, she said.
“I think one thing is that there is a large refugee population in the East Lansing and Lansing area. So I think it was a neat opportunity to highlight that and to talk about what resources there are in this community,” Britany Benson, the Broad's public engagement coordinator, said.
The RDC opened in 2002 in response to the struggle of newcomers to become self-sufficient.
“The common denominator in the gaps identified revolved around education, and hence, the mission of the center was born,” according to the RDC’s website.
They have a number of resources for refugee and immigrant families in the area, including English classes, youth mentoring programs and after school tutoring. The students who participate in their programs were invited to take part in the beauTIEful workshops and contributed to eight designs for this collection.
“We had several kids who were very interested in how the patterns could be put on designs and create actual articles of clothing,” Brown-Binion said. “So that was really a neat piece of it that we didn't expect to come out of it. Then you know, there's also a financial contribution that can come. … There's a lot of different ways that we all benefit.”
Before attending MSU, Shapton attended Loyola University Chicago, where she met with textile company Printed Village, who she was able to partner with once reinstating the project after transferring to MSU.
“After working with her and learning about what their company does, and transferring to Michigan State, I applied to the Open Call at the MSU Art Lab,” Shapton said.
MSU Broad’s Open Call platform invites people to share their creative ideas for new programs within the community. The Broad Art Lab then helps that person achieve their idea within the space.
“We have a review committee that looks over the applications that we get to select one for every cycle,” Benson said. “And one thing that they really liked was that it was an MSU student, so it was connecting community and campus and getting to work with some local organizations, too, and the RDC was kind of a great way to connect different areas. I think (the Art Lab) helped her to reach a little bit of a different audience just because it was in a different city. And we had a little bit of a connection with the RDC.”
In order to achieve the patterns, Shapton goes through the art and picks out parts she can manipulate through editing programs before sending the designs off to Printed Village’s production facility. Once she receives the items, she handles the packaging and shipping for customers.
Throughout the process of bringing this project to MSU, the partners said they have been able to form relationships with Shapton and have grown to appreciate she work she is putting in.
“She’s wonderful to work with. Just very organized and creative and very thoughtful about the participants,” Brown-Binion said. “I think it's really important when we work with community partners that we engage in a way that is most meaningful for the participants, and they are the first people to think of in terms of how this project will work.”
Her partners hope that the past iterations of this project will allow Shapton to continue giving back.
“I understand it might be challenging for her to continue to do while she's in college, but I think it'd be neat if she's able to do it every once in a while,” Benson said. “It certainly is a great idea. And since she's able to sell the stuff online, too, it's neat that it can really spread and she can reach lots of people.”
All of the products from this collection will be available for purchase on the beauTIEful website and all proceeds will go to the RDC.
“I think her creativity and interest in giving back and serving the community is really powerful,” Brown-Binion said.
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