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An art project that helps the whole community

James Thurman and Alexandra EppsProducts created by UNT students for the Denton County Friends of the Family Upcycle Project, a collaboration between UNT and Denton County Friends of the Family, will be displayed and available for purchase from noon to 4 p.m. March 26 at the Friends of the Family Thrift Store, 1614 W. University Drive, in Denton.

For the project, students in the Design II (3D foundations) course of UNT’s College of Visual Arts and Design created new upcycled products from materials and items found in the Thrift Store of Denton County Friends of the Family, an organization that provides services to those impacted by sexual abuse and domestic violence.

James Thurman, associate professor in the College of Visual Arts and Design, coordinates the Design II course.

“We began this project during the summer of 2014 and have continued it every semester since then,” said Thurman. “The students involved in the project gain experience in getting their work out into the ‘real world’ and all that it entails — high level of craftsmanship of finished pieces, designing for a particular client and market and other such skills. This is no longer an academic exercise, but a very real project involving people in need and the local community as a whole.”

Alexandra Epps, a teaching fellow at UNT and the area assistant for the Design II course, said the focus of the class has changed this semester from previous semesters.

“We’re trying to create more functional items this semester,” said Epps. “For example, one of the students is making a decorative wreath that will also hold children’s bows that the student is making as well.”

Epps said that the partnership between UNT and Denton County Friends of the Family is one that is beneficial for the entire Denton community.

“It’s a great friendship that will increase the community’s awareness that there is something in Denton like Friends of the Family that can help families who have been through domestic hardships,” said Epps. “It’s also a great thing for the students’ resumes because they have been able to collaborate with a community-based program.”

Lexi Rodriguez, a sophomore converged broadcast media major, is a student in the Design II course and is working on a teddy bear made from earmuffs, a corduroy skirt and a plush toy. She said that she is excited about working on a project that aids the community.

“It helps people that have financial difficulties so much,” said Rodriguez. “The Friends of the Family thrift store is extremely affordable, and we’re able to give them not only a work of art, but something that people can use. I think it’s awesome that we can buy something and recreate it for the community.”

All purchases at the Friends of the Family Thrift Store go directly to services that help victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse.

“We are the sole provider of emergency shelter in Denton County,” said Kaitlyn Howell, director of community relations at Denton County Friends of the Family. “We also have an outreach office where we offer counseling, child-play therapy and legal services and more. Basically, anyone who has been a victim of abuse can come to the agency, where they will be assigned an advocate and have access to all of our services. We’re here and ready to help clients however they need.”

In addition to the thrift store, some of the student-created products will be featured in a silent auction at Friends of the Family’s annual fundraiser, Rhapsody in the Afternoon, which has contributed nearly $900,000 to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault over the last eight years. Howell said that Friends of the Family hopes to raise $100,000 at this year’s event.

Rhapsody in the Afternoon will be held at 11 a.m. May 16 at the Hilton Garden Inn, 785 SH-121 Bypass, Lewisville. Tickets are $50 and will go on sale early March. Tickets include lunch and access to the silent auction as well as a live auction that will be part of the event. A survivor of domestic abuse will be speaking at the event and an unannounced celebrity will emcee.

  • Learn more about the Denton County Friends of the Family thrift store and to purchase tickets for Rhapsody in the Afternoon.

 - Margarita Venegas, News Promotions

Above, associate Professor of Studio Arts James Thurman (left) and teaching fellow Alexandra Epps (right) work with students to create handmade, upcycled products from materials found at the Denton County Friends of the Family thrift store. Photo by Ahna Hubnik/URCM. 

Posted on: Mon 09 March 2015

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