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Adolescent alcoholism inspires young artist

Haley Parsons is the artist behind ‘Drowned Childhood’ which seeks to draw attention to underage alcohol consumption. – © Rosalyn Roy

ROSE BLANCHE – HARBOUR LE COU – On a concrete pad inside the playground fence sits an unlikely collection of beer bottles, crayons, toys and even a tire swing. Conceived as part of a college assignment by artist Haley Parsons, the second-year Grenfell student is hoping to provoke some thought and perhaps even discussion about the realities of underage drinking.

“I’m doing a sculpture class online and this is an interjection project,” says Parsons, who received support from town council for her project’s location. “This piece I would like to call Drowned Childhood.”

The piece is supposed to represent alcoholism, particularly underage alcoholism.

“It’s a problem here in Newfoundland among the youth,” says Parsons. “I personally think it’s a bit of a problem. I have been affected by it before.”

Parents who keep beer in the house may not readily notice when a bottle goes missing. Easy access to alcohol combined with some peer pressure can cause problems for young teens or even pre-teens, something which Parsons witnessed firsthand back when she was only fourteen.

“I don’t think it brings any sort of joy. I don’t think it’s needed in order to make friends with people, and it causes a lot of problems when you grow up. It affects your ability to learn. It can affect your lifestyle. It can affect your social life. It can affect a lot of things, and I feel like that isn’t spoken out against strongly enough here,” says Parsons. “We grow up around it. We’re accustomed to it, so at a young age we think it’s okay.”

As much as she might wish it, she doesn’t expect her art project to spearhead any kind of grand and sweeping change. Instead the desire is to get people’s attention, and like most artists Parsons is adept at using her talent and training whenever she can to draw attention to the issues that matter to her.

“I don’t think I can completely change everything,” she admits. “I may at least change a few lives. That’s why I wanted to put it on the playground, right? Because parents will come in here with their children and they’ll play, and while they’re playing they’ll have this sitting right here.”

Already she says a few have taken notice even when just strolling by the area. She hopes it will get parents wondering about what their children might be experiencing or provoke them to talk to their children about alcohol while they are still relatively young.

“There are parents who are like, ‘No. You shouldn’t be doing this’ and being really strict about it, but kids always find a way,” says Parsons. “I think it’s really a learning curve for both parent and child.”

Parsons has been an artist from a young age and hopes to develop it as a career. In addition to sculpting, she also enjoys painting and writing. In the future, if she has more opportunities to put up further exhibits to draw attention to other issues, she will certainly take advantage.

“Maybe speak a little bit more about mental health. I think that would be a pretty good topic to talk about. There are a few other ones – environment probably as well,” says Parsons.

Not all of her work revolves around causes though. She has pieces she creates just for her own enjoyment too. For now she is continuing to focus on her studies, which can present problems when learning remotely. She says she sometimes finds it difficult to do art online, and would rather be in a classroom setting where she could gain hands on experience with different tools, for example.

But there’s also some upside to remote learning. Sometimes she just enjoys relaxing at home with her parents.

“I have a lot more free time on my hands as well to do stuff like this.”

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