Vanessa Calderón-Rosado, Ph.D., is the CEO of IBA, a community development corporation dedicated to empowering individuals through education, workforce development, and arts programs. She shares IBA’s holistic approach to youth development and how the arts unleash the collective power and voice of the young people they serve.
Last week, art by Boston-area teens premiered at numerous MBTA stations.
Created in collaboration with the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) and Massachusetts Department of Transportation, these innovative video works share the creative voices of young people in Boston.
“The ICA’s award-winning teen arts program serves 1000s of young people every year, creating informed future artists, leaders, citizens, and audiences,” said ICA Charlotte Wagner Director of Education Monica Garza. “This partnership with the MBTA presented an exciting opportunity to share their creative voices with a larger Boston community.”
Three Teen Arts Program members—Mithsuca Berry of Revere, Gabe S. of Boston, and Sydney A. Bobb of Boston—proposed and created short videos around the collaborative themes: “whimsy,” “love letter to Boston,” and “peace and quiet.”
Berry’s video Shades of the City makes use of hand-drawn stop-motion animation and tells the story of a woman of color who falls asleep on the train and dreams about painting the city of Boston in her likeness.
Bobb’s work Fraternal Eclipse tells the stories of three passengers whose lives intersect for a brief moment on public transportation, leaving them with deeper thoughts than they had expected.
S.’s work A Walk in the Park pays tribute to the beauty of Boston through a series of timelapse videos capturing moments of life throughout Boston Common, from the statehouse to the frog pond.
“In addition to providing critical customer-focused information, the T’s new digital network is providing a canvas to highlight excellent creative work from local teens, ” said MBTA General Manager Luis Manuel Ramírez.
Name: Pedro Cruz
Organization: IBA (Inquilinos Boricuas en Accion)
Title: Youth Arts Program Coordinator
Artistic Genre: Photography/Poetry
Years in the Field: 11
What do you do at IBA?
I am currently the Youth Arts Program Coordinator for IBA’s Youth Development Team. This means I work with teens on a daily basis throughout the school and summer cycle. According to my job description my duties are to design art based curriculum that introduces the idea of social justice, as well as help the youth express their own views and concerns through art. But anyone in this field knows it’s more than that. If you ask me, my number one job is to build strong, long lasting relationships with my youth. The type of relationships that save lives.
Why do you do what you do?
I was born and raised in what I like to call a concrete jungle. It’s easy to be overlooked or judged when you’re a young minority from a community that suffers from poverty, turf wars and gentrification. I remember while growing up the only safe space I had was the local community center and teen spaces. I will never forget the impact those places had on me. I guess now I just want to be who I wish I had when I was younger.
What comes easiest to you in this work?
The easiest thing for me about this job is connecting with the youth. There is no science to it. I just do it. I was born and raised in the same streets they are navigating today. I know their struggles, their challenges and their desires. I know what they have to go through on a daily basis. I know how it feels to leave your neighborhood and feel as if you’re crossing into enemy territory. I know how it is to stay out of trouble but still be considered part of the problem just because of where you live or who you hang out with. These things can’t be thought. They must be lived.
What challenges you in this work?
The one thing that challenges me most is not being able to serve every youth that I come across. Sometimes it’s because of limited space or funding, but it hurts me to meet a youth and not be able to serve them the way they need to be served. Some youth require a lot more attention than others do, and that is not something easy to live with. In this job you need to know when to ask for help, and asking for help wasn’t something I did a lot of growing up.
What does it mean to your community that you do this work?
The beauty of all of this is that I currently work for the same Creative Youth Development Program I attended when I was a teenager. I have been blessed with the opportunity to work in my community and serve children I literally saw grow up around me. At this point, I can only speak from what I been told and I like to think that it means a lot to my community to see me doing this type of work. There has been many cases where parents feel a lot more comfortable allowing their kids to participate once they know it’s me who’s running the workshop or activity. That has to count for something.
How do you blow off steam?
Believe it or not, I go for walks around the city. No destination in mind. I just leave my house and wander around. There’s something about this process that I find therapeutic. I let my spirit guide me as I am studying people, soaking in the sounds and just watching an entire city live around me.
What do you create in your free time?
Easy- photographs and poems.
What music do you like listen to (if even a little too loudly)?
I must admit, I am possibly the biggest Blackbear fan in Boston. I love his music because it’s real. There’s no filter or sugarcoating to it. It is what it is. I like to think my art is the same way.
The unauthorized biography of your life is titled:
“Building New Rome”
That’s always a good question to think about. Truthfully, I am currently working on a poetry book and building my photography brand. I just want to continue building my name as an artist and youth worker in the Boston area.
Throughout Fall 2017, Urbano Project youth artists collaborated with interdisciplinary artist-in-residence, Salvador Jimenez-Flores on “Tortilla Socials” – public, interactive printmaking workshops in Jamaica Plain. Using a multi-functional tortilla press designed by Jimenez-Flores himself, participants of all ages had the opportunity to create their own art prints while eating freshly made tortillas.
Jimenez-Flores envisioned the people of Jamaica Plain gathering to create art, enjoy Mexican food, and engage in a bilingual dialogue in public community spaces. “Group print-making is a tool for self-expression,” said Jimenez-Flores. “Advocacy and education and food has long been a uniter of communities of all ages.”
In January, 14 Urbano fellows and youth artists joined Salvador and printmaker Amelia Spinney for the first time in a week-long printmaking intensive where they designed and produced a collaborative print for public display at the end of the week. Limited edition prints for public display and interventions related to Urbano’s 2018 theme of “Resilience and Sustainability” will be available. The exhibition will be open through March 3, 2018 in Urbano’s studio at 29 Germania St, Building F, Boston.
(Images: Faizal Westcott, courtesy of Urbano Project.)
“Green Card Baby”, a collaborative youth art piece seen on a Mass Cultural Council site visit to Elevated Thought, an art and social justice organization that actively serves and develops communities through youth empowerment curriculum, beautification projects, youth organizing, and public outreach.
AFH was founded 25 years ago by Susan Rodgerson with a seemingly simple idea: Engaging urban young people in collaborative art making gives them a voice in the arts – and business – community. Rodgerson describes the evolution of AFH’s creative jobs program, which now employs 300 kids annually and earned just under $1.5 million last year. Committed to a sustainable future, Rodgerson also shares expansion plans for the EpiCenter, AFH’s building and first Platinum LEED building in Boston.
In the spring, Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM) celebrated the Art on the Edge and Reaching Forward’s exhibition opening.
Art on the Edge (AOTE), a free studio program taught by professional artists to support the development of local artists ages 11-14, offers semester-long studio classes including art history presentations, opportunities to create individual and collaborative works of art, and exhibitions in the Museum School and galleries of PAAM. Students work with professional teaching artists and explore a variety of media, including painting, printmaking, sculpture, animation, and drawing.
The Reaching Forward Student Mentor Program (launched to dovetail with AOTE) provides professional development in the arts for 17-22 year olds. Student mentors learn from contemporary artists, develop leadership skills, deepen their own art practices, and serve as role models for their younger peers in the AOTE program. Many of the mentors have been AOTE students themselves and have also participated in Mass Cultural Council’s YouthReach funded program Art Reach, a free multidisciplinary afternoon immersion program for arts and humanities education offered to high school and college aged students.
This year’s exhibit included a variety of work including shadowboxes, plein air painting, and prints from plates:
Students learned about the ways artists create the illusion of depth by playing with scale and repetition in forms, perspective and color.
Plein Air Painting
Like French Impressionist painters of the 19th Century, students drew and painted outdoors, studied color relationships in natural light and used watercolors to sketch the bay at St. Mary’s of the Harbor.
Prints from Plates
Inspired by the maritime wood carving work of Clare Leighton, students worked directly from 12 original New England industries prints from PAAM’s collection. Students also went onto create their own plates.
“I love the satisfaction of creating something and it being better than I thought I could do. And so, art is a good way for me to combine creative thought and process with my drive to constantly do better. Art Reach has given me a good opportunity to apply my skills and desires to practice and improve, by giving me new projects and art mediums that challenge what I know and what I can do.” – Nathan Balk King
“Each week, I’m excited to come back and work with friends. Regardless of whether we’re working together on a project, or just enjoying each other’s company. [PAAM’s] fantastic programs push me to be myself rather than someone I’m not.” – Keith Taylor
Hannah Capra, a 16 year old from Marstons Mills currently in her junior year at Cape Cod Regional Technical High School, has blossomed from middle-school novice to practicing artist and a mentor to her younger peers.
“I have been making work at PAAM for 5 years now, and I have learned and grown here so much more than I ever thought I could. There is nothing better than taking negative emotion and turning it into something really beautiful. The feeling of putting so much of myself into my work, in attempt to help myself cope – and maybe help others – is my purpose,” she said.
Over the summer, Hannah’s work was featured in Shirl Roccapriore’s annual Youth Artist Program Exhibition at the Oils by the Sea Gallery in Provincetown which celebrates local talent and also serves as a fundraiser for Art Reach.
The value and rigor of PAAM’s programs are incredibly clear not only with beautiful work at an exhibition, but also through the meaningful relationships and growth students experience.
Youth voice is essential to creative youth development. We’re asking youth leaders to speak to the power of culture as active agents in their own growth:
Nic is an Express Yourself participant of 16 years and a long-time youth mentor – the longest running participant in Express Yourself history. He is leading youth and junior mentors in creating two large panels inspired by the theme SOUL to be displayed outside Express Yourself’s studio. Using quilting patterns and a specific color palette, Nic designed a modular project to be individually painted by youth and then assembled into the final piece.
His project fosters youth leadership within the studio setting and brings public art to the Cummings Center in Beverly, MA. The exhibition will be presented during a studio reception and will be on full display in the Cummings Center after the show at the Boch Center Wang Theater on May 25.
This article originally appeared on Express Yourself’s site.
Artists for Humanity celebrated Black History Month on Instagram by highlighting local legends: people they’ve mentored, been mentored by, or who have enriched the local community with their talent and energy. Here are a few of those featured paintings:
“This was my second painting at AFH. I tend to focus on realism and my ideas are based on things that I’ve faced. This painting represents the power of knowledge; how knowledge helps you expand out of your boundaries and grow as an individual,” Erica Orsorio, youth artist with Artists for Humanity.
“My art resembles and is influenced by the mental and physical restraint that people of color face in this world. I usually try to make connections to my life and my Haitian ancestors, as well as the struggles of people of the African diaspora all over the world. I encourage and embrace black power, it is evident in my pieces,” Adriana Dalice, Artists for Humanity Alum.
Painting by Janelin Pineyro.