Kola Weisbrich gives back with her artistic talents

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Although she never met him, to her, Spencer Bell wasn’t just anybody. 

After a painful, 11-day battle, Bell—a poet, musician and artist—died of adrenal cancer in 2006. The Spencer Bell Legacy Project aims to keep Bell’s artistic legacy alive by sharing his story. 

Kola Weisbrich, a senior communication major from Inyokern, Calif., stumbled upon Bell’s music in 2008. Bell’s indie music, poetry and story inspired Weisbrich to use her talents to express her deep appreciation for Bell’s artistry.

Weisbrich sells her artwork on her non-profit website, Smartstone Initiative, and donates all proceeds to The Spencer Bell Legacy Project and other cancer research organizations she said are often overlooked. She also collaborates with other artists and musicians.

“There aren’t a lot of charities that give to the orphan cancers,” Weisbrich said. “If someone has been stricken with the illness, I would love to help them and get other artists involved and have them donate their time and their pieces.”

Much of Weisbrich’s art is inspired by iconic pop art figures and ‘90s hip-hop. She uses pencil, ink, watercolor and acrylic paint. Weisbrich said her main focus is to create artwork for her non-profit website that she thinks would be popular among this generation, like portraits of Dr. Who or Marilyn Monroe. She keeps her subjects somewhat generic in hopes that a larger audience will find them appealing.

In addition to her pop art-inspired sketches, Weisbrich also creates hats for multiple bands. One hat was auctioned off in Sweden for nearly $140. Her biggest goal is for people to simply go to her website and purchase what they can. Although most of the proceeds go to the University of Michigan Adrenal Cancer Research or the Spencer Bell Legacy Project, she also donates to other organizations like Susan G. Komen. Anybody who purchases from the website can also request exactly where he or she would like the donations to go.

“I priced everything very reasonably because I feel like people don’t want to spend a lot of money, but it’s for cancer,” Weisbrich said. “I would actually really love it if everything got sold out.”

Most of the pieces available now are 8-by-10 or 9-by-12, but Weisbrich said she will start to sell larger works. Soon, other artists will be able to donate pieces as well.

Weisbrich said Bell’s website is what keeps her going.

“It breaks me down every time,” Weisbrich said. “I’m the least emotional person you’ll meet. I’m pretty cut-and-dry, and it just ruins me because it’s the saddest story.” 

Weisbrich said while she pondered ideas to raise money, a band member suggested pooling together an art festival. The event morphed into a full-blown concert series, and the trip to Dallas proved to be inspiring, crazy and successful. 

“It was a two-day event, and we raised $5,000,” Weisbrich said. “[Bell’s] music and art meant so much to us that we all came together, and we were willing to literally cross the oceans and experience this with each other…It was amazing.” 

The connections she’s made and the impact Bell had on Weisbrich’s life was unexpected.

“They are awesome people, [and] it’s become such a community,” Weisbrich said. “All these people got inspired by Spencer, and they didn’t even know him. It just shows how one person can touch thousands of lives.”