PITTSBURG — To one local artist, art is a positive force that can bring people together for a cause.

Robby Raio, a recent Pittsburg State University graduate, can be found around town and beyond painting or sculpting.

Originally from California, family from around southeast Kansas brought him home after his time in the Navy. At that time, he had no intention to go to school for art.

“I wasn’t really into art … I took a summer class, and thought ‘I kinda like this, it feels good,’” he said. “There are healing attributes to art.”

Many of Robby’s past projects include community involvement, he likes projects which will benefit others, he said. Some of these projects started through classes at PSU, which Robby said he wouldn’t mind continuing in the future if another group with a cause came along interested.

“It makes an impact on those around me and the community, and myself in the long term knowing I’ve made a positive benefit to those around me,” he said.

He’s initiated a project through paintings for the humane society and another project “Make Art for a Cause” which benefited Bikers Against Child Abuse. The project included several parts, not only donations but a moment for participants to reflect on what family is to them.

“The paintings weren’t just paintings,” Robby said. “I asked them ‘what reminds you of family, what makes you happy ?’— social impact kind of questions,” Robby said.

The artwork was displayed at Memorial Auditorium, then auctioned off to raise money for B.A.C.A.

Another project idea brought the Pittsburg State Department of Art and Wood Technology together.

“We took two different groups of people and put them together and focused on the overall theme,” he said. “Then they incorporated their own ideas as groups and come together as one piece.”

Creating art brought along a new friend for Robby, a fellow veteran, Aaron Skapik. They met at school during Art Day, Robby said, but Aaron thinks they met on a trip to a conference. No one really knows for certain how they met, but they are friends who paint alongside each other now.   

“We balance each other out,” Aaron said. “I’m a little more reserved, Robby drags me out of my shell.”

Unlike Robby, Aaron has been into art for years, with artists running in his family. The duo has worked on several projects around town, including a mural at Eclectic Soul Studio and their current project a 12 by 14 foot mural on a building at 5th Street. The mural should be complete by fall.

Art, in all its variety, has its own meaning and symbolism, Robby said. It can bring people together or simply have a special meaning for the beholder or artist.

One of his sculptures, which he calls Balancing the Heart and Mind, “may not look aesthetically pleasing, but it has a lot of meaning to me,” he said.

When the art leaves his hands and into someone else's, it gives him a good feeling, he said.

“It’s cool to see people wearing something you made,” he said. “Just like making a mug, knowing every morning someone goes and grabs that mug and fills it up with coffee.”

— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.