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Resident uses art to help abused and at-risk kids

Duane Graham has been an artist his entire life. From his early days as a “starving artist” in and around Kansas City to serving as a technical artist on NASA’s Saturn V booster project, Duane has been creating artwork that has impacted people all around the world for as long as he can remember. Later this month, Duane will bring the impact of his work a little closer to home through a special exhibition benefiting the Newton chapter of the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) association.

Although Duane has worked in a variety of mediums over the years including pen and pencil drawings and photography, the focus of this exhibition will be Duane’s work with acrylics—something he only recently picked up.

“When my wife passed away almost two years ago, I needed something to do, so I told my daughters I wanted paints and canvases for Christmas and they gave them to me, so I was committed,” said Duane.

“I have been painting about one piece a month for over a year now, and I’ve been wondering what to do with all these canvases, so I decided to have a show and sell them and whatever profit I make would be a fund generator for CASA.”

Duane’s selection of CASA as the beneficiary of his exhibition wasn’t by chance. Shortly after he retired, Duane began volunteering for the organization as a court-appointed advocate—work he says hasn’t always been fun but has been something he has found to be deeply rewarding.

“I felt useful from the standpoint that a lot of times you could see things from the child’s eyes that the other organizations and family members can’t,” said Duane.

And it’s being able to provide input from that unique perspective that Duane feels can make a real difference in the life of a child.

“You’d talk to doctors, school teachers, policemen … but you spend a lot of time with the child and the satisfaction comes when you see a child who has been severely abused put into a position where they find out there’s more to life than being afraid of your parents and discovery that somebody does love them.”

The work presented in the show will feature a mix of cowboys, rodeos, clowns and at least one mountain man—the model for which is expected to be on-hand during the exhibition.

A private showing of the exhibition to benefit CASA will be held prior to the formal opening event will be from 7-9 p.m. on July 18, including entertainment and a brief talk with Duane, at the Carriage Factory Art Gallery, 128 E. Sixth Street in Newton.

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