Students and Art as a Means of Revealing Self

Each year we host some events in support of art programs in local schools. Today was the the opening of a photography show for Denver Public Schools during Month of Photography. It was an open call across the region’s high schools. About 300 submissions resulted in 75 pieces selected.

I’ve never seen so much diversity at an art exhibition in my life. Every museum educator’s dream. These kids were walking their parents through the exhibition. I heard an older Mexican dad say, “Mijo, y eso?” Son what is that? His son explained. Financially, ethnically, in terms of age, wow were there many kinds of humans here today. That was very cool. The best part was that the kids were guiding their parents and grandparents through. High schoolers are asking mature enough questions that the conversation moves beyond a child’s perspective. This is why I love art: these young people expressing themselves to their own families.

Hilariously, the teens playing guitar in back told the organizing teacher they like to play classic rock, like Nirvana! She said: “Oh my, am I that old that their “classic rock” is Nirvana?!”

In the quiet before the exhibition, I was glad to see some students get an award ribbon. I thought of their surprise and how much these kinds of events really serve as tiny stepping stones on a creative mind’s path. Later I saw some of the other students walk in and not get a ribbon. I wondered if the ribbon was worth it? Was this the beginning of the quiet silencing? Someone else saw your work and decided whether it should have a ribbon. I decided that’s the reality of most things in life. It’s definitely worth it for the ones who get that tiny bit of affirmation. I heard one mother say to a teen: “it’s an honor just to be in the show.” A valuable life lesson.

I was also impressed by how many kids took books off the shelf. Kurt’s dad would have been very happy. Usually adults walk in, admire the bookshelf and walk on. These kids were curiously pulling them off and looking. I tried not to stare in disbelief.

A community needs spaces like this, spaces to experiment, to be seen and to see, to walk through safely and learn. Thanks, Alexa, for having the show at the Gallery and Mark Sink for connecting us.

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