Guest Post: the Youth-Led Campaign to Educate, Entertain and Empower

Photo by Tim Aguero.

Jamil Suleman served as the Mentor Artist to the most recent session of Creative Justice, our program offering an arts-based alternative to incarceration for court-involved youth in King County. In this Guest Post, Jamil shares insight into what the group of participants learned and accomplished:

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Photo by Tim Aguero.
Photo by Tim Aguero.

Jamil Suleman served as the Mentor Artist to the most recent session of Creative Justice, our program offering an arts-based alternative to incarceration for court-involved youth in King County. In this Guest Post, Jamil shares insight into what the group of participants learned and accomplished:

I’ve done this before, but there was something different about this group…

The process for me as a Teaching Artist focusing on Hip Hop Culture is usually the same every time, no matter the location or age bracket. Take a group of young people, have them produce music and film, lace the classes with relevant cultural studies that influence the content to be more socially conscious, crank out a legit business plan for merchandise and performances, and build a mini-movement in a handful of months. The result is a cohesive group of artists who, after taking some risks to express themselves, if everything worked out as planned, come out with a stronger sense of self-confidence and reaping the rewards as a team.

There’s nothing like seeing all the weeks of hard work pay off when your shirts sell out after you rocked a set of music that really puts your thoughts and feelings out there. To share your story, and to see it being appreciated by people from all backgrounds, is a life changing experience that sets the tone for a young person’s dreams and pursuits from there on forward. It’s experiential proof. Now, there is no doubt, if they put their mind to it and work hard with a small group of their friends, they can do it.

It can be done.

We started with a group of youth, some who knew each other, and some who were completely new to the area. We’d come in, twice a week, from 5:00 to 7:00 pm, and start with a brief activity or meal. Considering the political climate we are in, with everything from the protests at Standing Rock to the election of Donald Trump occurring during our session, you can imagine the dialogue was always lively. It was these conversations that gave a foundation for our art work.

Once we started to form a cohesive core, we looked at all of the various social and cultural issues we discussed and experienced, and decided to pick a campaign to focus our creative project on. With #BlackLivesMatter and #NoDAPL going viral, the youth chose their own movement: #FreeTheYouth. Stemming from the idea of the everyday struggle, the class picked #FreeTheYouth as a way to give voice to youth experiencing incarceration and the school to prison pipeline. That message is what fueled the music, video, shirt design, and the overall purpose of our Creative Justice session.

Photo by Tim Aguero.
Photo by Tim Aguero.

And in early December, after having wrapped up our last session of Creative Justice 2016, I look at our class of young high schoolers, who’ve gone through their own personal journeys of ups and downs in and out of the courts and foster homes…beaming. They did it. And each one of them is taking home $40 tonight after selling several of their #FreeTheYouth shirts and wristbands they designed while in class. One of our students had a breakthrough moment when she performed in front of a crowd for the second time, now without needing her lyrics. Fear conquered, mission accomplished.

Proof. It can be done.

That’s the main mission for me. To be able to be given a real opportunity, to be vulnerable with students, to be their friend, their ear, their family member…to just be there for them. After having worked several jobs in the field, I can say with confidence that Creative Justice really gets to the core of what our youth and community needs. The heart to heart relationships we build, that lay the groundwork for the foundation of educating and learning from one another, and using our creative talents to express that growth. It allows us to build the necessary trust with each other, so when we make our art, it can be true and authentic, and when we share it, it’s that much more impactful.

I was right about this group being different. I felt, this time, that I was closer to my purpose while teaching with Creative Justice, and the dynamics of the class really prove that. There are always obstacles, and you can expect that things won’t be easy some times. But the way we were able to navigate throughout the quarter allowed us to grow in ways I wasn’t expecting, which gave us a synergy that I feel lasts past the program, and resonates with our entire community.

Photo by Tim Aguero.
Photo by Tim Aguero.

#FreeTheYouth is a movement, and it’s not going anywhere until our youth are free. Free from the shackles of judgement from systems that have been created to silence us. In the time and age we live in, it’s going to be up to our youth to make sure we make it through, for them and their children. After having gone through this session with a dozen very strong and confident young people, who are now seeing their own potential to inspire, I have faith.

It can be done.

#FreeTheYouth

January at Gallery4Culture: David Jaewon Oh

David Jaewon Oh. Stefani, 2014. Digital C-print. 25 x 38 inches.

David Jaewon Oh
Combatants
Gallery4Culture
January 5—26, 2017
Opening: January 5, 6:00—8:00 pm

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David Jaewon Oh. Stefani, 2014. Digital C-print. 25 x 38 inches.
David Jaewon Oh. Stefani, 2014. Digital C-print. 25 x 38 inches.

David Jaewon Oh
Combatants
Gallery4Culture
January 5—26, 2017
Opening: January 5, 6:00—8:00 pm

David Jaewon Oh’s Combatants captures the strength, honesty, and endurance of women in combat sports. The sights and sounds of the often male-dominated gyms where they train come to life in this series of intimate photographic portraits that explore personal identity and gender roles.

Although there has been an increase in the number of women participating in boxing and ultimate fighting over the past two decades, they continue to be underrepresented in the media, seen as novelty acts, and confined by the paradox of accepted norms. Since 2012, Oh has traveled to Washington, Oregon, California, New York, and British Columbia, capturing the changing face of the field and helping to break stereotypes related to athleticism and physical ability.

Oh states, “I’ve photographed a world champion boxer who had to wait tables at a pancake spot a few days after winning her title, a single mom who lost everything after a natural disaster and needed a way to cope, a woman who was drawn to the sport as a way to build her sense of self, and a teenager who just “likes to fight.” I’m working with fighters who are participating in, arguably, one of the more historically male-dominated sports and yet, it serves as an opportunity for them to find their identity and strength as women.”

About the Artist: David Jaewon Oh was born is Seoul, South Korea and now resides in Seattle, Washington. He received a BFA in Photomedia from the University of Washington, where he was honored with the Harold and Sylvia Tacker Award in Photography. His work is focused on the subjects of culture and gender in sports. Recent projects include the documentation of an LGBTQ running club and the Rat City Rollergirls. Combatants is his first solo exhibition in Seattle, but images from the series have been shown at Black Box Gallery in Portland, Oregon, Gallery CLU in Los Angeles, California, and featured in online and print publications such as VSCO, Float Photo Magazine, Vice Fightland, and Good Sport Magazine. Oh was awarded a 2016 GAP Grant from Artist Trust.

Website: upsetspecialistphoto.com

Up next: Chris McMullen’s C.S.E. (Collaborative Stacking Extravaganza!)

We Love the Junction: Preservation Grants at Work

The Campbell and Hamm buildings – in West Seattle’s primary business district, The Junction © 2016 Southwest Seattle Historical Society

As our region rides its biggest boom cycle since the 19th century Gold Rush and construction cranes fill our skies, many communities are coming together to figure out ways to grow and change while also preserving the historic character of our neighborhoods. What does that work actually look like in action?

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The Campbell and Hamm buildings – in West Seattle’s primary business district, The Junction © 2016 Southwest Seattle Historical Society
The Campbell and Hamm buildings – in West Seattle’s primary business district, The Junction © 2016 Southwest Seattle Historical Society

As our region rides its biggest boom cycle since the 19th century Gold Rush and construction cranes fill our skies, many communities are coming together to figure out ways to grow and change while also preserving the historic character of our neighborhoods. What does that work actually look like in action?

Often, preserving a historically significant building or space starts with something critical, yet unglamorous: surveys and studies! Funded by our Preservation Special Project grant in 2014, the Southwest Seattle Historical Society partnered with four other West Seattle organizations to conduct the West Seattle Junction Historical Survey. A professional architectural historian assessed more than 50 buildings lining California Avenue, identifying two that are strong candidates for landmark status.

The Campbell Building, located at 4218 SW Alaska St, built in 1918, now occupied by Cupcake Royale, and the Hamm Building, located at 4302 SW Alaska St, built in 1926, currently occupied by Easy Street Records, help define the character—old and new—of the West Seattle Junction. They house local, small-business tenants and provide rental housing at lower rates than the new buildings that seem to pop up overnight in and near the Junction. Long-time West Seattleites support the preservation of these cornerstone buildings, but, SWSHS argues, so do newer residents—their surveys found that historic buildings like the Campbell and Hamm were a big draw for those who had moved to the neighborhood recently.

At the beginning of this year, the SWSHS received another grant through the same program, this time to research and write a Landmark nomination for each of the two buildings. Written by recently retired 4Culture staff member Flo Lentz, the nominations were submitted to the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board in September—stay tuned to the SWSHS to find out the future of the Junction!

Guest Post: Providing Access in South King County

Jean McFee Raichle, Summer Flowers. Image courtesy of The Art of Alzheimer’s.

Led by Barbara McMichael, SoCoCulture provides South King County, arts, heritage, and botanical organizations with networking opportunities, advocacy support, and professional development. Here, Barbara provides an update on a recent meeting designed to help the group’s members improve their services and engagement with the public:

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Jean McFee Raichle -- Summer Flowers -- Elderwise ® creative outreach class
Jean McFee Raichle, Summer Flowers. Image courtesy of The Art of Alzheimer’s.

Led by Barbara McMichael, SoCoCulture provides South King County, arts, heritage, and botanical organizations with networking opportunities, advocacy support, and professional development. Here, Barbara provides an update on a recent meeting designed to help the group’s members improve their services and engagement with the public:

At a recent meeting, our topic was access—we put together a panel of terrific folks who are working to provide meaningful cultural access to both artists and audiences with special needs.

Marilyn Raichle, founder of The Art of Alzheimer’s, talked about discovering how her mother, who had dementia, found a way to express herself even after she became nonverbal. With a paintbrush in her hand, Raichle’s mom created beautiful art with interesting content and vibrant colors. With this newfound evidence that her mother still had a creative spark and stories to share, Raichle has been working to spread the word about this way to connect. Earlier this year at Seattle City Hall, she presented The Artist Within, an exhibit that featured the art of dozens of individuals living with dementia. The disease affects about 100,000 people in Washington State alone.

The Jack Straw Cultural Center has developed several different audio production programs for blind and visually impaired individuals of all ages. Joan Rabinowitz, executive director at Jack Straw, noted that some of these programs have been running for more than 20 years. The Blind Youth Audio Project is an extracurricular workshop series that runs in conjunction with a University of Washington-based summer youth employment program for blind and visually impaired high school students. Students can get involved in radio theater production, interviewing, music recording and mixing, or soundscaping projects. Another program involves visually impaired high school students interviewing visually impaired adults about their careers, and how they achieved their goals. These and other initiatives have been collaborations with organizations including Humanities Washington, the Washington State School for the Blind, Arts and Visually Impaired Audiences, and the Washington State Department of Services for the Blind. And Jack Straw would love to find groups to partner with in South King County.

Our other two panelists focused on programming for special needs youth. Sammamish Arts Commissioner Lin Garretson has developed Special Arts 2Go, which partners special needs kids with high school student mentors to work together on hands-on art projects facilitated by professional instructors. Students are encouraged to express their creativity in a variety of mediums. Garretson said that the events are geared for youngsters on the autism spectrum, but that students with other special needs are welcome. Both they and their teen mentors have been enthusiastic about the program, and both sets of young people have benefited from the teamwork. The program has become immensely popular and has grown significantly in just a short period of time.

And South King County’s own Elisa Lewis, founder of the Maple Valley Youth Symphony, shared the story of how her organization formed a Jam Club when she learned that a couple of musicians in the Youth Symphony had special needs siblings. When the Jam Club started out it served just a couple of children. But as word spread about this Music Therapy based music education program, Jam Club has expanded over the last couple of years to include musicians from second grade through high school. Jam Club participants work toward musical and social goals, and perform with the Maple Valley Youth Symphony on specially selected pieces at every concert.

This program has had the additional advantage of connecting the parents of these kids and giving them a chance to share experiences and resources.

Marilyn, Joan, Lin and Elisa all provided inspiring and concrete examples of how to reach out to under-served populations in our communities. In South King County and elsewhere, let’s dedicate ourselves to doing more to dismantle barriers to participation!

Artists, submit your exhibition proposals for Gallery4Culture's 2017-2018 season!

Andrew Hoeppner. Monkeys, 2016. Ceramic, glaze, and 24K gold. Photo: Joe Freeman

Gallery4Culture showcases contemporary art, presenting the work of outstanding independent artists living in King County. Our 1,000 sq. ft. exhibition space is located on the street level of the 4Culture administrative offices in the heart of Seattle’s Pioneer Square.

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Andrew Hoeppner. Monkeys, 2016. Ceramic, glaze, and 24K gold. Photo: Joe Freeman
Andrew Hoeppner. Monkeys, 2016. Ceramic, glaze, and 24K gold. Photo: Joe Freeman

Gallery4Culture showcases contemporary art, presenting the work of outstanding independent artists living in King County. Our 1,000 sq. ft. exhibition space is located on the street level of the 4Culture administrative offices in the heart of Seattle’s Pioneer Square.

Visual artists working in all media and genres are invited to submit solo, collaborative and group exhibition proposals for our next season, which runs from September 2017-July 2018. Emerging artists and those whose approach to studio practice is underrepresented in commercial venues are especially encouraged to apply.

Selected artists will receive curatorial direction, communications/PR support, and a $500 honorarium to help defray expenses.

Visit the 4Culture OPPORTUNITIES page and scroll to King County, WA + Gallery4Culture to find the detailed call, materials checklist, and a link to the online application.

The deadline for submissions is Monday, January 9, 2017.

Contact Jordan Howland at 206.263.1589 with questions.

galleries.4culture.org

Artist Talk with Deborah Faye Lawrence

Deborah Faye Lawrence. Open Carry, 2016. Fabric and paper collage on canvas. 40 3/4 x 34 3/4 inches. Photo: Lynn Thompson.

Deborah Faye Lawrence: Open Carry
On view November 3—December 1, 2016 at Gallery4Culture
Artist Talk: Tuesday, November 29, 6:00 pm

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Deborah Faye Lawrence. Open Carry, 2016. Fabric and paper collage on canvas. 40 3/4 x 34 3/4 inches. Photo: Lynn Thompson.
Deborah Faye Lawrence. Open Carry, 2016. Fabric and paper collage on canvas. 40 3/4 x 34 3/4 inches. Photo: Lynn Thompson.

Deborah Faye Lawrence: Open Carry
On view November 3—December 1, 2016 at Gallery4Culture
Artist Talk: Tuesday, November 29, 6:00 pm

“Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.”
– Bertolt Brecht

Deborah Faye Lawrence uses satirical collage as a political and psychological tool. Join us on Tuesday, November 29 at 6:00 pm at Gallery4Culture to learn about her life’s work and the injustices explored in Open Carry.

Creative Justice Youth Take a Stand Against Gentrification with Pop-Up Exhibit

 

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Clockwise: Breana Commodore. A Good Day, 2016; Aaron Counts. Chain Link, 2016; Delino Olebar. Street Selfie, 2016; Faisal Provincial. Pratt, 2016. Photos courtesy of the artists and Creative Justice.
Clockwise: Breana Commodore. A Good Day, 2016; Aaron Counts. Chain Link, 2016; Delino Olebar. Street Selfie, 2016; Faisal Provincial. Pratt, 2016. Photos courtesy of the artists and Creative Justice.

Creative Justice
We Still Live Here
December 7—15, 2016
Curated by JoJo Gaon and Aaron Counts
Opening: Thursday, December 8, 6:00—8:00 pm
Gallery4Culture – 101 Prefontaine Place South, Seattle, WA 98104

Our region is changing. Fueled by the thriving technology industry, Seattle has become one of the fastest growing big cities in the country. But the booming real estate market isn’t enjoyed by everyone. Rents are rising at an alarming rate, while incomes remain stagnant for middle and lower class families. Schools continue to fail at reaching all students equally, and the opportunity gap widens.

This inequality means our affordable housing crisis is yet another burden disproportionately shouldered by people of color. The issue is much more than a discussion about dollars and cents. It is about the future of our area: its character and aesthetics as expressed by its diversity, or lack thereof. Those families being displaced by gentrification are real people, attempting—like all of us—to lead full lives. As neighborhoods change, their proximity to community may be in jeopardy, but their sense of place within it is not.

In WE STILL LIVE HERE, Creative Justice youth stake their claim as residents of our region, documenting their existence, showing us their struggles and their joys through the lens of their smartphones. The exhibition, inspired by the art of Martha Rosler and the Streetwise series by photographer Mary Ellen Mark, juxtaposes images from the daily lives of the artists with the construction of a new and changing Seattle. In many respects, it is a tale of two cities, but the tale hasn’t been completely written. These young artists are creating a new chapter, refusing to be pushed into history.

WE STILL LIVE HERE is a collaborative project by the Youth Leadership Board of Creative Justice, an arts-based alternative to incarceration for young people in King County. With the guidance of mentor artists, participants consider the root causes of incarceration like racism and other oppressions, focusing on the positive role their voices can have in building a more just and equitable society. The Youth Leadership Board consists of past participants who continue to shape the direction of the program through their creativity and vision. Celebrate and support their work on Thursday, December 8.

Photography
Breana Commodore
Jamila Daka
Marcus Lawson
John Leoto
Delino Olebar
Faisal Provincial
and the Creative Justice mentor artist team

Poetry
Jamila Daka
Jazmine Speed
and Marcus Lawson

creativejustice.4culture.org

Support for Creative Justice comes from 4Culture and the National Endowment for the Arts. This special project and exhibit was underwritten by The New Foundation.

Community4Culture Takes Off

Studio Lazo is a group of artists and community members working to create a welcoming venue to showcase the creativity of Latino artists, writers, and musicians. Photo courtesy of Studio Lazo.

What would it look like to be able to truly support all of King County?

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We are a group of artists and community members who support the arts. After years of struggle to carve out space for Latino artists within existing cultural communities, we decided to create a new, welcoming venue that especially showcases the creativity of Latino artists, writers and musicians. Photo courtesy of Studio Lazo.
Studio Lazo is a group of artists and community members working to create a welcoming venue to showcase the creativity of Latino artists, writers, and musicians. Photo courtesy of Studio Lazo.

What would it look like to be able to truly support all of King County?

We’re extending our existing equity work through a new grant program called Community 4Culture that sets aside funds to go directly to organizations that do vital cultural work but, due to geographic, income, and other disparities, have been historically underserved.

This presents many challenges, and we quickly realized it would require a great deal of learning and listening on our part. Rather than asking these organizations, all of which are dealing with small staffs and budgets, to conform to our processes and procedures, how do we instead adapt those processes to the needs of our community? How do we build the organizational knowledge and skills we need to be able to effectively serve these cultural doers?

It has been and will continue to be on ongoing process, but we are proud to announce that the first round of Community4Culture recipients has been selected! They come from all over King County, work in many different cultural disciplines, and serve diverse communities:

JHP Cultural and Diversity Legacy
Indigenouz PlaceMakerz
Studio Lazo
Total Experience Gospel Choir
Ewajo Collective
Latino Theatre Projects
Great Northern and Cascade Railway

We’re excited to move forward in collaboration with each of these organizations. Community4Culture is not a “one size fits all” grant—it’s based on ongoing capacity-building. If you think this grant may be a fit for your organization, learn more about it here, and don’t hesitate to contact us with your questions.