3_000NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – Smith College awarded a $23,000 grant to new alumna Cassandra Holden to enable her to create a public artwork with students in a local alternative education program for pregnant and parenting teens who have dropped out of high school.

This is the second award given by the college’s Helen Gurley Brown Magic Grant program, which helps Smith’s Ada Comstock Scholars or recent graduates reach their highest potential by underwriting expenses associated with internships, independent research and travel, creative and artistic projects. Holden graduated from Smith in 2010.

Holden, of Easthampton, plans to work with 15 girls at The Care Center in Holyoke to design, fabricate and install a large-scale mobile in the Kittredge Center at Holyoke Community College.

“So much of the artwork we encounter is produced in isolation and displayed in a museum or gallery context,” said Holden. “The experience of public art is often unplanned…You encounter such pieces by surprise and the result is often disarming.”

Holden enrolled at Smith as an Ada Comstock Scholar – a nontraditional-aged student – a decade after dropping out of Smith as a traditional student and running a small business.

When she returned to college, Holden majored in studio art and pursued two collaborations with artist Peter Kitchell, which resulted in large-scale mobiles that were installed in a hospital and a hotel.

“I came away with the knowledge that this was the work I wanted to do,” said Holden. . “I hope that the Care Center students, too, feel empowered and inspired to think big and achieve their goals.”

The theme for the mobile is Alchemy, “the unexpected transmutation of the ordinary into the extraordinary,” said Holden. The mobile will feature a series of suspended forms that vary in color and dimension and will respond to the changing airflow patterns generated by visitors walking through the building. Collaborating with HCC students and faculty will be part of the semester-long project.

“Our completed project will serve as a lasting monument to our combined effort,” said Holden.

Although she never attended Smith, legendary Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown has long expressed an affinity with the college’s commitment to educating women with diverse life experiences. Her papers are part of the college’s Sophia Smith Collection of women’s history manuscripts. Brown was recently made an honorary member of the Smith College Class of 1962, in recognition of the publication that year of her groundbreaking book “Sex and the Single Girl.”

Smith College educates women of promise for lives of distinction. One of the largest women’s colleges in the United States, Smith enrolls 2,800 students from nearly every state and 62 other countries.

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