Auburn Hills-based Mahindra champions the art of local high school students, seeks to grow program

Paul Lowis looked to places like the Museum of Modern Art in New York City for art design inspiration at Mahindra Automotive’s North American headquarters in Auburn Hills,

But what he did with the north half of the building draws on talent here at home. 

Rather than find the works of established artists for that particular wing of the building, Lowis, Advanced Concepts Manager for the company, turned to the talented high school students of Oakland County. 

In doing so, he established the Mahindra Education Development Commission for the Arts, an organization that is currently benefiting the students and schools of Oakland County, but could soon include the entire state. There’s even a group in Ohio that is looking to replicate the success of the program.

Currently planned for every spring and fall, the MEDCA student competitions solicit submissions from area art students. MEDCA supplies a theme, style, and size. Twenty students are selected as winners, each receiving $100 gift cards to Amazon. Five of those students’ works are then selected as the top five, and the art departments of those students’ schools receive $500 gift cards to the arts and crafts supplies store chain Michael’s.

The first contest, which asked for works that feature shapes in a minimalist style, was held this past spring. The winners are now featured in the halls of Mahindra.

Lowis says that seven of the 20 pieces of art have already been purchased by Mahindra employees.

"It’s unbelievable how good this work is," he says. "If you walk through, you’re going to think you’re at an art gallery in New York City."

Following the success of the initial contest, Lowis has been looking to expand the scope and impact of the events. He’s working with sponsors to increase the amount given to schools, and he’s working with the Michigan Council for Arts & Cultural Affairs to increase the number of schools involved.

Winners of the contest are featured on the MEDCA website. After six months, they’ll be moved from Mahindra and put on display at the headquarters of Oakland Schools, garnering even more exposure for the students, schools, and sponsors.

"Are you doing something or are you just sitting there? That’s the question. Programs like this give a company a soul," Lowis says.

"Having a philanthropic posture is one of the most important things you can do. It’s just as important as the job you work."

Visit MEDCA online to view the students' artwork.

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MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.