OC's art show offers wellspring of hope

By Dawn Marks, staff writer for The Oklahoman

With each stroke of their paintbrushes, the students are working to raise money for The Wishing Well Project, an organization created to help find clean water for African nations. The project also gives students a chance to showcase their pieces and work for a cause.

“Art is something that I think is really powerful. It’s a really powerful form of communication that goes across language barriers. It’s just not used enough,” said Simone Chamlee, a junior. “Other paintings that I’ve done for class just sit in the trunk of my car.”

Students will sell their works of art and prints during a gallery showing and concert this week. The gallery opens at 7 p.m. Thursday in the student center at Oklahoma Christian University, 2501 E Memorial.

Most of the pieces are painted with a water or African theme to raise awareness of the problem, said Whitney Parker, a senior and art director for the project.

The first step in helping Africa with a myriad of problems often is giving the people a reliable, clean water source, Parker said. Many places are overtaken by disease and poverty but the need for water is paramount, she said.

“The average woman or child walks four miles a day to get water, which leaves little time for education or economic development,” Parker said.

The next well will be dug in Rwanda and students are planning to go there in May to film a documentary. How did the project begin?

The Wishing Well Project was started in 2006 at Pepperdine University in northern California by student Brendan Groves. The group soon moved its main hub to Oklahoma Christian, however, after Ryan Groves, brother of Brendan Groves, and Parker were discussing two passions — problems in Africa and art. They decided to ask students to lend their talents to the cause and started holding gallery showings.

In the last year, eight more Wishing Well chapters have been established at other universities, Parker said. Their goal is to expand to other universities and high schools and to use other types of art, such as music, to raise money.

Oklahoma Christian students said they hope their art can encourage people to learn about the situation in Africa and offer some help.

“If you can change hearts, then, man, that’s changing the world,” senior Joshua Burgin said.