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Your stories: S-GI student’s art takes her from Springville to Savannah

SPRINGVILLE — From shaving cream and colored tiles to tattoos and charcoal, Dakota Nesselbush’s preferred media have changed over the years, but one thing has remained the same: Her unwavering passion for the arts.

The daughter of a stay-at-home mom, Nesselbush began making art with her mom when she was a toddler. As she grew into an artistically inclined child, her parents enrolled her in summer art classes through the Springville Center for the Arts, which included drawing tutorials and other activities to enhance the classes she was taking at Springville-Griffith Institute schools.

“I guess you could say I was always more involved in art than your regular kid,” Nesselbush said. She stuck with graphite pencils and charcoal until recently, when she began to play with paint. She now works in acrylics and “dabbles in watercolor.”

The artist has gotten involved with several projects and contests recently, thanks to art teacher Christy Komenda, who has made those opportunities available to her students.

One of those opportunities was the Allentown Art Festival poster and T-shirt design contest, for which Nesselbush’s design was chosen, this year.

“I’m pretty excited about that,” she said. “I’ve gone down to the festival a few times and it’s pretty cool, so it’s great to be a part of it.”

Nesselbush also designed the rain bucket that won the Rain Bucket Design Contest, garnering $750 for the art and science clubs at S-GI. All this in between year-round soccer, travel and volunteer activities that keep Nesselbush, in her words, “pretty busy.”

Some of the activities Nesselbush has undertaken have included painting chairs to be auctioned off at the annual Art Crawl, taking place this year on May 3; participating in Art Alive at the Albright Knox, a contest in which students must recreate a famous painting or work of art from the gallery’s collection, using their own bodies and illustrating books written by the children participating in the Country Life Programs Success Center’s after-school program.

Nesselbush got involved with that program last summer, while working as a volunteer at CLPSC for National Honor Society service hours. She was asked to illustrate one of the kid’s books, and has been working with a little boy named R.J. ever since, to make his imagination come alive on the page.

“Some of the illustrators have free rein,” Nesselbush said, “But R.J. is a really bright kid, and I talked with him in detail about what he wanted, right down to the [characters] having two different colored shoes. Some of the kids really know what they want, but others need more direction.”

Direction is not something the high school artist lacks, with plans to attend the Savannah College of Art and Design to study interior design, in the fall. Although freshmen do not have to declare a major or area of study, in order to get all of their general courses out of the way, Nesselbush said that interior design is “always something that’s drawn my eye.

“I’ve always looked at the rest of my art as kind of a hobby,” she said. “But with a space, you can create more of a reaction than a piece on a wall.”

She described her style as “eclectic,” combining modern furnishings with old-world architectural details, a tendency she credits to her travels throughout Europe.

“I want to incorporate travel in my designs, pick up on the sense of the people I’m designing for,” she explained. “I know for sure that I want to influence people, no matter where I am or what I’m doing.”

Part of that drive comes from a service trip she took with her sister to Tanzania, in which the girls spent two weeks teaching English, through the nonprofit Cross-Cultural Solutions. That experience, Nesselbush said, was eye-opening.

“There was a culture shock at first, but you adapt quickly,” she said. “You don’t realize how much you truly have, until you see how other people live.”

That drive has inspired Nesselbush’s desire to travel, to explore and most of all, to absorb other cultures into her own artistic aesthetic. The artist said that Savannah, Ga. is perfect for her, because it combines two of her favorite aesthetic elements: Restored architecture, with a modern twist, all soaking in southern sunshine.

“I can’t wait,” she said. “I visited Savannah this past winter, during their cold snap, and it was 40 degrees, and everyone there was walking around with earmuffs and heavy jackets. I’m out there in my spring jacket like, ‘Hey, this is alright!’”

With no love lost for the snow, Nesselbush looks forward to the transition with excitement and trepidation.

“It’s a big thing, but I’m looking forward to being in a new place and meeting new people. I really appreciate old and restored buildings, and Savannah has a lot of that, plus restoration classes so I can really learn what it’s all about.”

When she’s not wielding a paintbrush or pencil, Nesselbush has played soccer year-round for most of her life, with one month off in between seasons. Playing the sport has allowed her many opportunities, she explained, including traveling to Italy with a team made up of first-team all-star players.

“Soccer has been a great experience for me,” she said. “I’ve gotten the chance to meet a lot of people and travel, but it’s also consumed a lot of my time. In college, I’m going to focus on my art and my schoolwork, but still get to be friends with and hang out with the people I’ve met through soccer.”

As her artistic evolution continues, Nesselbush is always looking for new paths, including tattoo design.

“When people get it on their body, it’s like, ‘Wow. I did that,’” she said. “I started doing it for a friend and word spread fast.” So fast, in fact, that Nesselbush had to dial back her budding business, to allow time for her other activities.

“Now, I’m just doing it for people who want it bad enough to get my number and call or text me,” she said. “I’ve narrowed it down to whoever really makes the effort.”

As her artistic career continues, Nesselbush said she doesn’t know where it will take her, but she’s up for adventure, no matter what.

“I’m into exploring, but also a little rooted,” she said. “So we’ll just have to see.”

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