“Taina” (acrylic on canvas 16” x 20”) is a piece by Care Center youth artist Jennieliz Lopez.
One of the key challenges for Creative Youth Development programs during COVID-19 has been the cancellations of culminating events showcasing the work and growth of young people in these programs. Theater performances, concerts, art shows, and open houses all of have been called off, diminishing the feeling of accomplishment for young people and losing a vital opportunity for the organizations to do fundraising.
The Playwright Mentoring Project at Barrington Stage decided to take action. In a matter of weeks they were able to perform and record nearly four hours worth of youth-written and youth-directed plays online through Zoom. Utilizing character ‘entrances’ and ‘exits’ the education staff, including Jane O’Leary and Allison Lerman-Gluck, supported the youth in completing the work of their year. The performance was livecast from Zoom to YouTube.
In a true show of collaboration and cross pollination, Groundwork Lawrence and the Mayor of Lawrence’ Health Task Force (MHTF) have produced Healthy on the Block/Bodegas Saludables. This healthy corner store initiative tackles the high levels of obesity and chronic diseases among city residents, assisting corner store owners in Lawrence in offering healthier options, including higher quality fruits and vegetables, at a reasonable price to their customers.
The initiative, funded by Lawrence General Hospital, has received positive response locally, and was joined by yet another creative youth development organization, Elevated Thought, to produce this short documentary.
Projects like this are a terrific example of the role youth voice and agency can play in the community, utilizing arts, sciences, and humanities to address issues in innovative ways.
Using various mediums – paint, chalk, water colors, crayons, glitter and other materials – the choir stepped outside of their musical comfort-zone to showcase their love for their craft. Each member of the choir presented their pieces to the rest of the group and selected their top 12 favorites.
Works were photographed and made into a banner which was displayed at the Dorchester Public Library, local area cafes, and the Strand Theatre throughout the summer.
Bold colors, distinct patterns, and powerful words centered around themes of unity, acceptance, love, and hope made up the final collection of pieces. Here are a few:
“I drew a tree with leaves that are flags, and wind blowing the leaves. The tree represents the world, and the leaves are the countries in it. The wind blowing the leaves represent music, because no matter where we come from, music is something we all have in common. The flags I used for leaves are all the countries I have sung songs from in Boston City Singers. Because of Boston City Singers and the music we sing, I feel more connected to the rest of the world.”
– Meredith, Boston City Singers Tour Choir
“Music continuously evolves but what was before never disappears. Like the stems and branches of a tree, music is growing from the earliest prehistoric times to modern popular and alternative music. It grows and grows”
– Gita, Boston City Singers Tour Choir
“My drawing represents what music means to me because it shows that music is a universal language. I drew the people around the world being connected with lots of colorful music notes. While I was in South Africa, I saw firsthand how music connects people regardless of where they are from. At some of the schools we visited the kids did not speak English very well. One of the schools was for blind children. Despite the differences between us, we were able to bond over our common love of music.”
– Kristen, Boston City Singers Tour Choir
“The idea was simple: a heart made of sheet music surrounded by colorful melted wax to show how music can bring love and hope and beauty in this crazy, busy, and intricate world. Few things went as planned. The crayons kept rolling off of the page. The melted wax went everywhere. But as soon as my fellow choir members saw me struggling, they pitched in. They helped me hold the crayons and the hair dryer to keep the wax from spraying everywhere. Music, and all forms of art, help bring people together, and that made my piece stronger than I could have ever hoped.”
– Brooks, Boston City Singers Tour Choir
“The Tree of Dreams & Song – I painted this while I was listening to the song “A Million Dreams” from The Greatest Showman, and it is what music means to me. A million opportunities, a million songs, a million dreams. Every song that I listen to or sing holds a special place in my heart. This tree represents all the songs and all the dreams I’ve experienced and ever will experience. A song is a magical thing. It can trigger so many emotions and hopes and dreams, that it’s almost impossible to comprehend. This is what music means to me.”
– Emmie, Boston City Singers Tour Choir
“Can’t Stop” (acrylic paint and pencil on paper) is a piece by West End House Boys and Girls Club youth artist Aleynna Quinones.
On her inspiration for the piece, Aleynna says, “Malala is a well-known, current women’s and Muslim rights activist. The black censor bar over her mouth symbolizes her being silenced along with many other women and Muslims. The colorful geometric design in the background stands for Malala’s perseverance and strength.”
Each year, Artistic Noise creates group projects using the theme “Ubuntu”. A term from Southern Africa referring to humanity, Ubuntu means “I am because you are.” In other words, ‘my humanity is inextricably bound to yours.’ It is the belief in a universal bond that connects all humanity.
This year, two projects were created using this theme, “Our Common Thread” and “The Cards You’re Dealt.”
Our Common Thread
Youth Artists: Aaliyah, Angelina, Dani, Genea, Genezza, Kyla, Karmen, Jada, Jeante, Jenna, Shana, Taylah, Takari, Thiarra, Trinidy, Quasaia, Xianixia, Zainab, Zyikeya.
“[Ubuntu] is about how one person cannot live independently of their community. Ubuntu has us think about the impact we have on our communities and how they also influence who we are. We realized that there is a common thread weaving us all together so we made this piece by crocheting yarn. The interlocking loops of yarn represent all of us and our connections to one another.
The center piece is a rainbow that represents the idea of Ubuntu. All its colors represent all the people and their differences and how beautiful diversity is. The triangles that surround the Ubuntu rainbow symbolize the words that represent what we want for ourselves and our neighbors. We chose the colors that we felt best matched those words and crochet the triangles. The colors of the triangles are part of the rainbow the way we feel that these words represent elements that are very important to Ubuntu”
Ubuntu: represented by the rainbow center
Believe: the blue triangle; Change: the multicolored blue and purple triangle; Peace: the purple triangle; Resilience: the multicolored red triangle; Growth: the green triangle; Community: the multicolored blue and green triangle
The Cards You’re Dealt
Interns: Sam Zicolella, Clara Clough
Art Therapist: Hannah Fulkerson
Youth Artists: Dani, David, Khaliel, Shana, Takari, Travin, Quasaia, Zyikeya
“The Cards You’re Dealt” is an eight by five foot painting, separated across four panels. The quadtych represents the uncontrollable aspects of our human existence and how we choose to live given those circumstances. The first three panels portray how we do not have the choice to pick our race or ethnic background, the socioeconomic status we are born into and how that affects our climb to the top, or many of the fortunate and unfortunate events that happen to us throughout our life. The last panel asks us to consider how we grow and develop as people in response to our circumstances and to also consider the circumstances of others.
The last panel is for reflection. You will find a rap composed by Takari (Artistic Noise youth artist) which speaks to some of the harshness in the world and encourages us to appreciate what we have and keep pushing til the end.
This is an interactive art piece that requests everyone’s participation. The artists encouraged you to take a gamble at each panel, think about the cards you’ve been dealt, and then share your thoughts with us on the last reflection panel by writing your response directly below Takari’s lyrics:
Gotta play the cards you’re dealt
Ain’t no choice in the pull
Young kid ain’t have no money he was chasing them bulls
Another kid up in the burbs he was swimming in pools
Kid back up in the city he was following fools
He was ducking from the people and rejecting them schools
Rich boy was talking back and he was thinking he’s cool
Met each other on the train and they was chattin’ it up
Tommy claiming that he bad but he ain’t backing it up
Davi, see the kid got future but he cracking it up
He’ll give anything and everything to turn back in time
Every time he leave without it put his life on the line
Tommy said you made ya choice now just let me make mine
Now the life that he was living wasn’t choice but by ways
He was tryna find the light in this world full of pain
Money can’t feed your emotion that’s the way he was feeling
Money buying fame that’s the reason he win
Don’t nobody really judge him in this world full of sin
This piece represents the understanding of Ubuntu as we should show love, care and understanding for one another because we do not get to choose the life we have, but are still responsible for the person we become.”
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.
“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.
This year marked the 20th anniversary of Community Art Center’s Do It Your Damn Self – the longest running solely youth-led film festival in the country.
The festival is a product of Community Art Center’s Teen Media Program. Established in 1970, the program continues to inspire and empower teen storytellers to move forward with self-assurance and dignity, living out the motto and mission of “if you want something done, you gotta ‘do it your damn self!’”
Mindful from RAW Art Works’ Real To Reel Program in Lynn, MA.
The festival featured a diverse array of films with wide reaching subject matter. All the same, staying true to the original mission of the six founding teen members to, ‘make change in their communities’, themes of social justice served as a through line in multiple films.
The film #BlackLivesMatter knit together images of the harsh realities of police brutality cases in recent years and the social unrest that has given rise to protests. Similarly, hip hop music video Pain highlights a young African-American male’s perspective on police brutality. Reach, an experimental film, takes viewers inside the reality of just existing as a black person in modern day America while Fault Lines speaks to how students can easily slip through the cracks of the education system.
Reach from YouthFX in Albany, NY.
Issues of representation in the media were featured as well. The film Tokenized follows Maggie whose life is changed when she is cast as a token character in her white male best friend Spencer’s story. As Maggie adjusts to life in her new role in Spencer’s story, she becomes more aware of how the unjust “storyboard system” has negatively impacted not only her life but that of her fellow token allies. The film brilliantly ties in LGBTQ issues when a character cast as Spencer’s love interest shows interest in Maggie instead. Eventually, along with her new love interest and other ‘tokens’, Maggie confronts the system eventually flipping the script and gaining her due agency in the process.
Other films addressing media representation included The Seated Siren and Life Rolls On.
The films (narrative and documentary respectively) touch on what it’s like living with physical disabilities. In The Seated Siren, the heroine struggles with the dating pool being seen as an invalid rather than as a person with feelings. Life Rolls On highlights Danny whose life was forever changed after enduring a sports accident. The film emphasizes how Danny is actually not a victim and instead, consistently continues to conquer life and its obstacles each and every day.
By the Way, by St. Stephen’s Episcopal School, Austin, TX
The festival also had its share of incredibly innovative storytelling. The film By The Way features a love story with a young couple who forms a bond over scribbling doodles on their shared desk. Finally, Mindful has a unique take on the issue of mental illness with a student personifying anxiety, depression, negativity and happiness and placing these characters into a police detective action narrative with a comedic twist.
All of the films in their own way offered an inside look at the humanity of a variety of hot topic issues that can often be difficult to fully understand when thought of at all. They were also a reminder of the arts’ power to connect people and create a space for discussion and ultimately understanding.