As a teacher for the Detroit Neighborhood Arts Workshop, I’ve really enjoyed working with some truly bright young artists in Detroit middle school/high schools. So far we’ve spent the last couple of months preparing for final projects that will be featured in a gallery exhibitions next summer. Many of the students are at the pre-college level, preparing their portfolios for scholarships and art school programs.
Naturally, the biggest difference between young children and teenagers is inspiration and motivation. Little kids always show up ready to create, experience new challenges and tend to develop the most work. It’s been important to challenge these students to spend time on their drawings, to really see how the image can progress. On the flip side, teenagers are morose and shy. Going through all of the traditional awkward emotional angst has them requiring more encouragement from authority figures (like me) and inspiring them to try ideas and passions they already care about. You really like landscapes? Don’t wait, go ahead and try to paint one yourself, there’s no law saying you cant try. LOL!
Because I’ve found in Detroit suburbs alot of misconceptions about urban youth, I’d also like to let folks know here that all of my classes are well mannered kids interested in the arts. There are no behavioral problems of any kind. In fact, I’ve found these kids are used to taking care of themselves in a way I’ve rarely seen in the private schools. (I used to teach Goldcoast progeny in Chicago).
Back in October, I was able to run some errands in Chicago and meet up with a great friend of mine- the Multicultural Affairs Director at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Over the weekend during the Chicago Jazz festival, I joined her in taking a few SAIC students over to the University of Chicago to meet with Avery Young. Avery is an MFA artist in residence through the Washington Park Arts Incubator. Its a really dynamic program on the south side of Chicago right now, headed by international artist Theaster Gates. Avery and the other resident artists had a show up culminating their one year interacting with the local neighborhood through music, studio art and public forums. Curated by another friend of mine Allison Glenn,the show “The Distance Between” was well done and it was a blast hearing Avery explain his multidisciplinary work. I loved his excitement and performative spirit. He really reminded me of the various family members I have from the West side of Chicago.