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Student art exhibit tackles social justice

The students learned about creating exhibits and participated in panels about art.
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From the eyes of the youth.

Teen art students concluded their month long exhibit showcasing artwork and creative interpretations of their environments at Kings County on June 16. The program titled, “Storytelling Through Mediums” featured work from dozens of students in the Young Exhibition Makers program, and their artistic takes on a variety of social issues. The program, which was a collaboration between art-curating organization No Longer Empty, and anti-violence program Kings Against Violence Initiative (KAVI), was an opportunity for the teens to learn about curating and developing work that reflected topics they wanted to tackle, said an education programs manager.

“As an educator our big focus was helping them create the work they wanted to create and the work they wanted to see,” said Mica Le John. “So all the art made by the teens expressed things that they care about and the program allowed them to take on a leadership role by choosing it.”

The teens, who were between 14 and 18 years old, worked in groups to curate and create artwork depicting themes such as self-esteem, identity, gun violence, inequality, and much more. The transfer of ideas between the teens was a chance they had to collaborate and learn about each other.

“We have different age groups who have this chance to interact, and the opportunity to have diverse conversations despite having different backgrounds and knowledge bases,” said Le John.

The exhibition was on display all month, featuring the work of 16 teen artists and curated by the 24 Young Exhibition Makers. Students had to conduct extensive research to curate their debut exhibits and develop it all on their own, added Le John.

On the final day of the exhibit, Le John says during an artist panel hosted by the students, many became so engaged they started asking questions not initially part of their agenda.

“I was really impressed with how they managed that and discussed things that they cared about and things they are passionate about,” she said.

Their understanding on approaching the subject of different works of art is an example of how the program has been beneficial, said community intervention coordinator at KAVI.

“I thought they were brilliant and I’m always impressed with the their ability do these amazing things,” said Tendaji Bailey. “They are still young and have many insightful things to say. Sometimes they are not aware on how to tackle issues but they put their hearts into it, and it was incredible what was on display.”

She adds that the students speaking about the work provided them with a chance to further expand their experience, and learning how to express themselves.

“I think one of the most beneficial things about the program was the public speaking aspect of it — there was exponential growth in how the youth carried themselves, and it’s wonderful to see them grow,” said Le John.

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimon@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @AS1mon.
Updated 3:05 am, July 10, 2018
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