At the Circus: The Spanish Walk by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

You are here

Creativity for a Cause

Submitted on February 25, 2013 - 1:00pm

Students are often so busy with school work and supporting themselves that they do not have time for other activities. Two current undergraduate students, one each from the Design and Art Divisions, have shown that taking the time to use their creative skills as a way to help others can be a rewarding and very worthwhile learning experience.

Kari Davidson came to the UW because of soccer. She has been a member of the UW Women’s team since she arrived as a freshman. Davidson was happy to discover that there was a strong design program here. She says, “My sophomore year was great for sorting out which discipline to apply for within design. After taking classes in all three, it became clear to me my abilities aligned best with Visual Communication as a whole.” Being a student athlete and a VCD student has not always been easy since both activities are very demanding. Davidson acknowledges that the support of Associate Professor Annabelle Gould has been essential in allowing Davidson to pursue her goals.

Davidson attended Startup Weekend in early 2012. There she met Katlin Jackson, a UW alumna who is now a project manager at Heartland LLC in Seattle. Jackson had been to Haiti three times after the 2010 earthquake and was passionate about finding a way to help employ mothers there so that they could keep their children with them rather than put them in an orphanage. During Startup Weekend, Davidson and Jackson developed the concept for Haiti Babi, and they have been working diligently to make it a reality over the past year. The organization employs Haitian mothers to make items for babies, starting with blankets, which are sold through the Haiti Babi website. The first blankets will be shipping soon. Because Haiti Babi was set up as a nonprofit, it also takes donations to help in the work of keeping Haitian families together. The organization just received $25,000 in funding from the UW Foster School of Business Center for Entrepreneurship as a 2012 Jones Milestone Achievement Award / Foster Accelerator team. Davidson says, “I feel extremely lucky to have met Katlin; she is super smart and wonderfully passionate. Our skill sets are so complementary. We make a great team.”

Working for Haiti Babi in addition to her commitments as an athlete and a student has been challenging, but Davidson says “I think my growth in each area has helped me find energy to do the others.” She also says, “Being in athletics, I am very comfortable receiving criticism and working with critique. That skill has proved very useful in design. Design is an intensely competitive major, and sport has made me appreciate competition rather than shy away from it.” In addition, her design studies have been integral in the work she has done as creative director for Haiti Babi. Davidson says “Design has genuinely re-shaped how I look at the world. It has opened my eyes to so many possibilities and opportunities. Design has taught me to seek solutions to problems, not just visually but in all areas of life. Not only has design helped me be aware of solutions but design has helped me feel empowered to make change.”

Davidson graduates in June of 2013, and she will continue to work with Haiti Babi for some time to come. In addition, she already has a position lined up with Microsoft as a result of her successful completion of an internship at that company last summer. She has made arrangements to start work at Microsoft in early December so that she can travel and volunteer in India between June and November. Her advice to other students who have any inclination towards social service work is to pursue it. Davidson says there will be a lot of hard work, but it is all worth it.

Bethany De Turk originally thought she would be a pediatrician. Her early coursework at UW focused mostly on pre-med requirements, but she also took a variety of other classes. One of those was Art 190 (Introduction to Drawing). Over time, she realized that she enjoyed creating art more than chemistry, biology, and physics, so she became an Interdisciplinary Visual Arts (IVA) student. Her seven quarters of science classes were not wasted, though, because she also discovered global/public health and added that as a minor.

Volunteering has been a part of De Turk’s life for several years. She says, “Everywhere I go, and everywhere I look, I see people that need help. I see people that I can help. My heart is drawn to the underserved and underrepresented.” She started out with Jumpstart, a program that places college students in Head Start preschools to teach language and literacy skills. More recently she has been volunteering once a week at Children’s Hospital where she brings a cart full of art supplies to patient rooms “using art as a therapeutic healing tool” and combining her interests in art and public health. De Turk says she has learned a lot from her work at the hospital, and she shares five insights:

  • Children are extremely resilient, strong, and quick to overcome obstacles.
  • Joy is contagious.
  • You don’t have to know all of the answers to make a difference in someone else’s life.
  • Healing comes in all forms, not just from doctors.
  • Sometimes art making is for yourself, and not for others.

De Turk encourages other students to consider volunteering or working for a nonprofit if they are passionate about a cause. She says, “It may not seem like a lot of time you are giving to an organization, but a few hours a week or a month can make a huge difference in someone else’s life. Even if the work doesn’t turn out to be what you expect, focus on the moments that are full of joy, and it will be worth it in the long run.”

The broad-based approach of the IVA Program has helped De Turk be open to inspiration from any source, both in regards to her art and life. She says, “I have learned to ask lots of questions and be open to new ideas from everyone around me.” De Turk has found Professor Layne Goldsmith to be particularly helpful in her artistic development because Goldsmith has challenged her to think critically about what she creates and how it might be interpreted. Goldsmith also introduced De Turk to the work of a number of artists that create art based on medical topics and diseases, something that De Turk has been exploring in her own artwork recently.

Like Davidson, De Turk will be graduating in June of 2013. She will be spending her last spring break in Honduras on a second volunteer trip with Global Architecture Brigades to build a health clinic in a rural community. After graduation, De Turk plans to spend the next five years working with a nonprofit organization, teaching, and/or working abroad. After that, she intends to apply for a global health master’s degree program with a Peace Corps International Track, which combines a year of coursework, Peace Corps training and two years of service, followed by a second year of coursework. De Turk says, “I am working towards this goal, but I want to stay open to the possibility of something different. I don’t want my plans to blind me to the other opportunities that may come along in the next few years.”

The School of Art is proud of what these students have accomplished, and we look forward to hearing more about their future efforts and good deeds.

Links for Kari Davidson
Haiti Babi
Design Portfolio
LinkedIn Profile

Links for Bethany De Turk
Healing through art (UW Foundation article)
Student Staff Profile
LinkedIn Profile
Volunteering at Children’s Hospital

Return to February 2013 newsletter

People Involved: 
Related Fields: