Art major Kat Witt was raising two children after separating from her husband when she found out she needed surgery. In 2012, after trying to manage increasing pain, an MRI revealed that she had high-grade spinal canal stenosis in which 75 percent of her spinal cord was pinched.
“I was lucky I was even walking,” she said. The doctors missed the diagnosis because the condition is usually seen in geriatric patients, not 29-year-olds.
A year after surgery, Witt participated in Lane’s Women In Transitions program and Native Circles, which is a career planning class from a Native American perspective. She then transitioned into art classes, but she still voices doubts about her career path. “It’s either make art or make money,” Witt said.
Her first experience with art was a high school internship at the non-profit Materials Exchange Center for Community Arts in Eugene. MECCA offers work space for people to work on art projects. A large selection of art supplies and other objects donated by the community is also available. MECCA offers art supplies and other objects donated by the community. Shelves contain pens, brushes, yarn, beads, ink, fabric, paint, wine corks and an assortment of other useful supplies.
MECCA also offers a workspace for people to work on art and those interested in using it have a large selection of supplies to choose from.
According to the MECCA website, they diverted 44,582 pounds of material from the waste stream in 2014, 25 percent more than in 2013. As an example of what can be accomplished with supplies from MECCA, a colorful mosaic of a seascape at Guy Lee elementary school in Springfield was made entirely out of colored plastic bottle caps, some of them bought at MECCA.
When not working at the store or attending classes at Lane, Witt is busy raising her two daughters, Sydnie, 11, and Joslynn, 8. Because of her physical limitations, MECCA staff only give her tasks that she can handle. She lends her artistic skills to all who come in to the store to make arts and crafts projects.
“Even though my brain does its own funky things all the time, coming here totally stimulates it,” Witt said. She commented that she enjoys it when a customer comes in with wild descriptions of something they imagined, and she is able to find it in the store. “And all for a dollar,” she added.
Witt had a second spinal surgery in August 2014 and returned to Lane in September to resume her art degree. “I really love LCC and how they try to accommodate people that have disabilities. It’s not intimidating to ask them for help,” Witt said.
She thinks she may have returned too soon after the surgery, however. Even though Lane supplied her with a locker near her classes, she felt it was still too much strain on her back to carry around her art supplies.
Witt is taking time off from school to allow time for her back to heal and to pay off student loans. In the meantime, she takes advantage of the teaching opportunities at MECCA by designing art projects for crafting sessions.
Living alone with her two children and having slumber parties is something she is enjoying. Even though she believes she will never stop being an artist, she still has doubts. “Art is totally my passion, but ‘starving artist’ is not one of my favorite terms,” she said.
Before her job at MECCA, she had obtained work using the skills she learned in LCC’s stage makeup class. “I definitely want to go back [to Lane]. I just want to get myself in the best space when I go back.”
MECCA is located at 449 Willamette Street, next to the Amtrak train station. Volunteer opportunities are available and donations are always welcome.