This month’s VISTA Spotlight is Nichole Westfall of GarCo Design Works.

“GarCo Design Works is a collaborative program birthed by Garfield County and Colorado Mountain College in 2012. It’s one part of a large program — GarCo Enterprise. I don’t want to be bias, but it’s my favorite part. This program helps its students get ready for the workforce – their main focus is to get people on their feet, and give them the skills and confidence to be self-sustainable.

Day-to-day, the students and staff make reusable bags out of sterile wrap. Sterile wrap is a fabric made by recycled plastic bottles. We grab it from four local hospitals after they use it to protect instruments in their autoclave(s). It can be washed, manipulated, and loved — that’s why we use it (and, of course, to get it out of the landfill). Students learn the responsibilities of working with a team, but they also learn all of the design process (and how to use an industrial sewing machine).

I’ve been a VISTA since April of this year. I wanted to become a VISTA because I didn’t feel fulfilled with what I was doing. I had finished college and was working a few design and art jobs in West Virginia. I suppose, in a sense, I had “made it,” because I was able to sustain myself with creating art. However, my art practice was very introspective, and I felt as though I wasn’t really doing my part for the larger collective. I wanted to help more people, and more directly. I chose to go to GarCo because it was created and run by women; their students are mainly single mothers as well. I have this urge to fight injustice, and, as a woman, social injustice based on gender is one I know too well. I knew this would be a place that I could help, because I’d have a fire under me pushing to do all that I could. I also knew this would be a place that I would fall in love with my work, and have a reason to fight for them (and all of us) everyday.

During my service, I’ve created a new website, Pinterest, and Instagram for the program. I’ve started a monthly newsletter highlighting former students and their incredible stories. With the help of generous donors and former Director, Jill Ziemann, I got a new place for us to set up shop. The former space was dark, smelled of mold, and everyone was separated from one another in little caves. Our new space is an (updated) open, industrial space where we are have the option of growing!

Currently, I’m designing — literally because I’m helping with media and marketing. But, also I’m working to help redesign the program to further grow!”