Colorful choices... Art teacher Kristina McClay helps junior Kinsley Frego make her palette. The paints were variations of blacks, whites, reds and pinks.
Colorful choices… Art teacher Kristina McClay helps junior Kinsley Frego make her palette. The paints were variations of blacks, whites, reds and pinks.
Jillian Surla

Art club encourages breast cancer awareness in community

Pinked out!

by Jillian Surla, editor-in-chief

FAIRHOPE, Ala.– Painting with purpose, high school juniors and seniors spend their October 2 decorating post office windows to promote breast cancer awareness.

Breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer leading to death, having one in every eight women experiencing it in their life. It doesn’t only affect the victim, though. Junior Emma Turner remembers how “traumatic” it was when her grandmother had breast cancer.

“My parents wouldn’t tell me anything,” Turner said. “We would go visit her a lot just in case.”

Fun with friends… Seniors Hayden McClay and Ana Kangsumrith paint together. The IB students arrived late, but made up for it with determination and friendly cooperation. (Jillian Surla)

To combat this, art teacher Kristina McClay decided to hold an annual field trip to the post office, where only 14 art club juniors and seniors were allowed to join. Once there, they spent most of the school day painting the windows with inspirational words and images—sometimes even survivors’ names.

“We do this because it’s a great community event that spreads awareness and the community loves it. They’re excited every year that we get to do this,” McClay said.

Before the event, students were required to send in an idea including an empowering word and design. The goal was to depict something to inspire and encourage breast cancer survivors and the community. Some chose flowers, others chose birds, but everyone chose to include the symbolic color pink into their design.

“[My partner Hayden McClay and I] think [our wave design] really—it’s a really good representation of the word we chose,” said senior Ana Kangsumrith. “Originally, we chose the word empowerment and we also kind of went down that path and eventually settled on the word ‘valiant’ and we think it’s just a really good representation of power.”

Aside from the meaning behind the designs and words, Kanfsumrith said students also found the act of painting to be a “good way to show support.”

“Painting is something that requires a lot of time, love, dedication, and it’s something that can bring a lot of joy, express a lot of emotion,” Kangsumrith said. “And so, by painting, we can kind of show our support and just maybe help raise awareness about the journeys of people with breast cancer.”

Soaring heights… Senior Kate McWhorter paints an angel wing to show the faith she has in people who have breast cancer. On her gray-scaled wing she painted a bright pop of pink to emphasize the importance of awareness. (Jillian Surla)

In McClay’s five years of hosting the event, she had one emotional experience that stuck out to her that showed how much of a “privilege and honor” it is to paint the post office for the community.

“A couple of years ago, we had a woman come up and she was–she teared up and she was crying,” McClay said. “Her daughter was battling breast cancer at the time and asked if we could put her daughter’s name on a window. That was the first year that we painted a name for anybody. She was very appreciative.”

The event means “a lot to the community.” Throughout the day, people stopped by to converse and express thanks to the students who painted, some even asking for photos.

“Like I said, I think the community likes to see the awareness and to see the talent of the students. They don’t get to see that very often either, so combining the two,” McClay said.

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