October 2, 2023 at 9:25 a.m.

Paying it Forward: Local Artist Uses Creativity to Give Back

By JENN WILLHITE | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Though some may not know her name, they certainly recognize her mark.  

Since its inception, the Student’s Fund of Hope has helped countless families in the Hope area. And helping the organization to further its good works in the community is 2006 Hauser graduate and artist Amber Whittington.

Whittington regularly works the magic behind the scenes, from creating memorable logos and promotional materials in support of the SFOH to leading events that help area children’s creativity soar.

But Whittington’s admiration and desire to help is rooted deeper than just a passion for creating meaningful images by hand.

The SFOH helped Whittington and her family by offering a fundraiser to assist with medical expenses when Whittington’s then-six-year-old daughter, Azlyn, underwent brain surgery in 2017.

Since then, Whittington and her family have worked hard to set the example that compassion and love know no bounds. And it is OK to ask for help in times of need, she adds.    

Today, Whittington donates her artistic talents to help the SFOH further build and expand its community presence, as well as offer unique programming for area youth.

“It has always been a passion of ours,” Whittington explains. “It is important for me; I want Azlyn to see this is how our community works. They were there for us and we are going to give back to the community in the same way they were there for us.”

The 37-year-old self-taught artist began donating her creative expertise a little more than one year ago when the SFOH secured space on the town Square that became the organization’s hub for special events.

After being invited to create a backdrop for that year’s Candyland-themed Daddy/Daughter dance, Whittington seen the opportunity as a great way to not only break the ice, so to speak, but as a launching point for fostering a greater active rapport with SFOH, she says.

“I thought it a good opportunity and project to dive in with and get to know each other,” Whittington says. “To talk to people and discuss what we want out of this.”

Soon after, SFOH founder Whitney Budd approached Whittington about possibly offering art classes for area youth.

Though she’s worked full-time in insurance billing for CRH in Columbus for more than 15 years, she’s an artist by night.  

Shying away from the precarious hustle of having to financially depend on art to support she and her family, Whittington says she wanted her pastime to remain something fun to enjoy.

“It is my passion and what I love,” she says. “And I don’t want to lose that.”

Budd says Whittington has always been one who has helped the community in a variety of ways, but quietly.

“She’s showed up to every event and there were some where I didn’t know she was coming,” Budd says. “And she would say, ‘Put me where you need me.’ There were sometimes where there was no way I could’ve done it without her.”

Over the years, Whittington has done a bit of everything artistically. And though her focus ebbs and flows depending on the medium, she has most recently been concentrating on acrylic painting, she says.

“I started painting with watercolor,” she recalls. “I love it, it's fun and a passion.”

Whittington has worked hard over the years creating a name for herself as a local portrait artist, concentrating her efforts on memorial and remembrance pieces for loved ones and pets who have passed away, she explains.  

And it was while fine tuning her portraiture abilities she found that though she loves watercolor, it’s lack of steadfastness and durability over time proved it wasn’t the best medium for her commissioned works. It was then she developed her own style.

“I mix a bit of acrylic painting with watercolor style,” Whittington says. “So, I will mix the mediums to get a more sheer texture for layering and a more realistic look.”

In an effort to bring her talent to the fore and offer unique programming for area kiddos, Whittington teamed up with the SFOH to offer free art classes at the hub last year. After just six short weeks, Whittington got to know nearly each and every student and found herself well on her way to building a rapport with the Saturday morning classes.  

“It was really special to get to know some of them,” she says. “Seeing two third graders, who didn’t know one another before class, start talking to one another; It was so humbling to me to see that friendship blossom.”

The best part about teaching young people is showing them there are all kinds of ways to express themselves, Whittington says.

At their age, many young people struggle with so much going on these days and it can be scary, Whittington says. Oftentimes, young people can struggle to find a way to express themselves.

“I hope with art I can help these kids communicate a bit of that,” Whittington says. “To express themselves in a healthy manner.”

As the relationship between Whittington and the SFOH continues to grow, both agree the sky is the limit.

“I just hope she knows and feels how much she is appreciated,” Budd says. “It’s not just the Student’s Fund of Hope, it is the community as a whole. When she becomes the safe person for the kids in the art club, it touches so many more people. It’s like she is planting a seed and though she may not see the flower blossom, just the work she does with these kids will change their lives because she is someone they didn’t have before.”

To learn more about Amber Whittington and her art, catch up with her HERE on Facebook.

Watch for more creative offerings from the SFOH by visiting them online HERE and on Facebook.