Young Alum Turns Class Project into NYC-Based Organization
- By Jarrett Van Meter
While plenty of students moan and groan in response to group project assignments, Ben Weigher ’13 has always been the rare breed whose eyes light up at the opportunity. Perhaps it was karma, but it seems to make sense that a team player like Weigher was the one to catch creative lightning in a bottle during a group project in his Entrepreneurial Leadership class his senior year.
With graduation looming and a marketing job offer already in his back pocket, Weigher partnered with classmate Tim Andreasen to create the framework for what would ultimately become Art on Board, a concept the former business major describes as “a community-centric organization with a focus on positivity, creativity and youth engagement through action sports and the arts.”
In its two-plus years of existence, Art on Board has produced a variety of expressive events and community offerings in locations spanning from Burlington to Seattle. Those events include art shows, skateboarding clinics and live mural paintings. In the case of the art shows, blank snowboards donated by Burton are distributed to Art on Boards’ extensive roster of artists. The artists then craft one-of-a-kind projects to be sold at the events, with all profits going toward youth engagement projects like the Burlington City Arts scholarship fund, Burton’s Chill Foundation, which aims to foster life skills in underprivileged youth through board sports, and the development of new Art on Board projects.
Weigher credits the creative-friendly atmospheres of UVM and the city of Burlington for helping elevate Art on Board to something more than a class project. “It feels like at UVM, more so than other schools, people have projects going on outside of their school work. Whether it be a clothing line, an entertainment company, a video production operation or even just DJing parties, they feel comfortable exploring their artistic interests,” says Weigher. “Burlington is a scenic town so it draws many different types of minds together, but what makes it special is the power it has to nurture the curiosities and abilities of all of us who choose to make it our home for four years.”
Weigher’s newest project is bringing the positive environment which spawned Art on Board to Satellite East Middle School in Brooklyn, New York this month. The new after-school program is tasking students with designing, sourcing, marketing and selling their own t-shirts. The students will then recycle their profits to benefit the school in a manner of their choice, whether it be a field trip, a new piece of equipment or a class project.
Weigher is bringing different individuals affiliated with Art on Board to deliver a lesson to the children on their particular area of expertise. Topics range from photography and drawing to advertising and budgeting. The project is a collaboration with the Partnership with Children organization and the New York City Department of Education, and Weigher hopes to parlay this first installment into a more expanded version in the following months.
One of the key words Weigher keeps coming back to while discussing Art on Board is inclusion. “That is the whole premise of Art on Board, having as many friends as possible getting involved in the good things happening in the community,” he notes. “This is what we are trying to pass on to the younger kids, this kind of attitude, this kind of togetherness.”
Weigher’s eagerness to reach out and connect with others is infectious. He has been thrilled by the amount of phone traffic beginning to flow in his direction from go-getters wanting to lend a hand. “Each year there have been more and more current UVM students reaching out about getting involved, and they usually say they heard about it through some UVM group or class,” he says with a grin. “Vermont just attracts that type of person.”
Art on Board has formed partnerships with several other Burlington companies, including Switchback Brewing, Burton Snowboards, Main Idea Productions and Hemetic Trading Company. As the organization continues to host events in new cities, it is the ties to Burlington that continue to serve as the skeletal support for the organization’s steady and organic growth. Even as he rubs elbows with some of street art’s biggest names in his new home of New York City, Weigher never loses sight of the fact that Art on Board in a product of the Green Mountain State: “Burlington and UVM sowed the seeds for everything we are seeing happen now.”