The Liberator

Students show diversity through art

Hanif Amanullah, Staff Writer

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On Oct. 20, one of the Austin Public Library’s art galleries was abuzz with the sounds of stand up poetry, short films and the chatter of excited viewers. Inside, people milled about, asking questions, speaking with each other and admiring the art of students participating in the DiversiTEENS Art Showcase.

The exhibition, organized by LASA junior Jamie Corum, took place in mid October with dozens of library-goers stop by the teen art installations. The goal of the project was to showcase students’ art and highlight the messages expressed within them.

“I’ve interviewed people, I’ve shelved books, I’ve held staff programs,” said Corum, who is an intern at the library. “But this is the big project of the summer.”

Corum’s showcase, which brought together high school students from all over Austin, was held in the library’s second floor art gallery and featured a wide array of mediums for teens to share their stories. The exhibition formed through outreach with the goal of getting teens involved, according to Corum.

“I think there’s a pretty good representation of mediums here,” Corum said. “I opened it up to the public, and I did outreach. I contacted different local Austin organizations to ask them to get their teens to participate, and then I did advertisement on social media.”

The American Library Association was able to give her a budget and supplies for her DiversiTEENS participants to create with.

“The students really did set this up themselves,” Adrian Perez, a Youth Technology Librarian, said. “They had some guidance from library staff, but all we did was give them what they needed to create.”

In addition to visual art, creators also chose to write poetry as part of their exhibit. Travis High School senior Maya Jackson said that poetry has provided an outlet for her to express herself in a different medium.

“I got into poetry when I was young, in middle school,” Jackson explained. “I’m really bad at talking to people, so writing poetry is a good way of communicating for me.”

Jackson was not the only one who emphasized the importance of spreading personal beliefs through art either for fun or to express deeper thoughts. McCallum High School junior Shoshana Kyme also said that in her fellow artists’ art, as well as her own, the most important component was the thought and emotion behind it.

“With anyone’s art or music there’s creativity, and some want to share it behind it,” Kyme said. “If you don’t, that makes it even more important to share. Because that means you’ve put more emotion into it, and if you are comfortable showing it, you should show it.”

LASA junior Ben Baskin found himself pouring emotion from the 2016 US presidential election into a poem written in the style of Dr. Seuss.

“Of course I was frustrated about what was happening at the moment, and I also just needed to write,” Baskin said. “It didn’t start off as a Dr. Seuss style poem. It just started off as me writing a poem. Then I realized it sounded like Dr. Seuss. And it really fits, with these ‘goofy’ characters.”

Though students like Baskin found that their subject was better suited for a lighthearted path, he said that his and other students’ presentations carried an undercurrent of importance.

“Teens have had one of the biggest influences in history,” Ben Baskin said. “There’s so much erasure of that. People forget that young people were the people who made changes.”

Anderson High School junior Zayne Lumpkin’s central factor for participating in the showcase was the influence young people have..

“I’ve written a fair amount of poetry, and though I’ve never really performed it, I will say the reception’s been pretty positive,” Lumpkin said. “My perspective is a perspective, same as anyone else’s. And I might not be as wise as someone older than me, but of course a lack of wisdom is a perspective unto itself. It’s the very, almost generic message of ‘we’re all different’. It sounds cliche but it really is the meat of the situation we have here.”

LASA junior Zoe Dubin emphasized the power of art in a non majority-teen setting.

“For me, art is a great way to take my mind off of school other and stressful things,” Dubin said. “Teens have a lot of stressful experiences in their lives, from school and home. It’s just a space you set out for yourself to do poems, art, film or whatever, and to express yourself.”

Corum feels giving teens the space to display their art is valuable.

“I think it’s really important for teens to know how to express themselves,” Corum said. “I think their voices oftentimes get shut down, or just don’t get heard as much, or not respected, because of their age. There’s kind of a mindset of ‘you’re going through a lot of things, and you’re hormonal’ and people don’t understand that our views and our experiences are just as valid as anybody else’s. So I think giving them the space to do that is very important.”

Baskin said that people like Corum, who organize spaces for teen students to not only show but articulate their ideas, are doing invaluable work in the community.

“I think giving young people a hand in the arts is one of the most strengthening power moves anybody can do.”

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Students show diversity through art