As Internet use proliferates in the United States, web sites have become essential business promotion tools, and web site design has emerged as an important professional skill. The Art Institute of Atlanta has found a way to train graphic arts students in web design and aid the community at the same time.
As in a traditional "barn raising," when whole communities get together to help build a barn, the Art Institute of Atlanta has instituted what it calls "web raisings." Teams of students and faculty volunteers design web sites for local non-profit organizations.
For Art Institute students, such as Jared England, the web raisings offer a unique opportunity to hone skills for the future.
"I initially was involved as one of the team members, but in the second go round, I was the team leader. It puts you in the role of project manager. And you are meeting with a client, hearing what they want to do with the site - so, it throws you into that real life experience," he says.
Hawa Minor, director of "Teaching for Success," a non-profit group that works with inner city parents and children, says the web raisings brought her program something it could not afford to buy.
"The students gave me an insight on how it's done, and got me a little bit more involved in this new technology. What it did for our program is it put us on the World Wide Web! It gave other people an opportunity to know about us, and to read about what we're doing," she says.
Matt Ray volunteers his time for "Healing Hands for Haiti," a program that provides medical supplies and treatment for handicapped Haitians. For non-profits, he says, web sites have become critical fund-raising tools.
"A web site is very similar to a business card. You can go there and find out all kinds of information about them. But even more important, for a non-profit organization, they have a way to donate. We have links on our Web site, where you can click on it and donate online," he says.
The results for graphic designers, Jared England says, are just as practical.
"Web raising provides that experience you are not going to get sitting in a classroom or sitting in front of computers," he says.
Web raising teams from the Atlanta Institute created 10 new web sites for local non-profits this year, laying the groundwork for the careers of new web site designers like Jared England in the process.