On January 29th and 30th, the youth participated in a series of art and inter-faith spirituality workshops at the Pacific School of Religion. The youth met with the Reverend Alexandra Childs, a local artist, to learn about body art and share their own art with the church community. The next day the youth facilitated their own workshop with five reverends from the School. They discussed music, spoken word, and intuition as art.
A youth summarized the experience, “we did a training with a local church. People were coming in from different parts of the country. We were selling at their event, and they wanted us to help more by participating in a lecture, body art, and dancing. Friday: we had a very long in depth lesson plan. The youth planned it. So we started off with a check in, (…). We did an opening motion. One person does a motion; then, another person does another. It’s really fun. People are interactive. (…) We talked about YSA a bit, ‘what is art to you,’ ‘what is art to your spirituality.’ We had them write down what spirituality meant to them. There were so many different answers. (…) Then, we had a long conversation about hip hop. It was a really good round table discussion.”
The youth reacted positively to the events. “The (January 29) training was fun. It was different from what I was suspecting for a church. It was a really good experience because we got to paint on people. There was one guy on his knees, and I kept thinking, why is this guy on his knees? He wanted me to paint on his head. It was fun. It was different.” The youth experienced totally new art forms such as body painting and dancing as a means to transfer acrylic onto a canvas.
The first day was not what they expected: “When I first heard ‘body paint,’ I was really nervous. I thought ‘ gosh someone is going to take off their clothes.” In reality, most people painted arms or legs. The activity brought people close. “I met some interesting people. It’s good to explore and get out of your comfort zone.”
The conversations the youth held with strangers encouraged new connections and self-reflection: “this one woman had the most gorgeous hair ever. I complimented her. She asked me about my work. It made me realize I need to be prepared. People ask you what you do.” The youth found everyone very nice, even though “these were grown people.” The activities helped the youth learn to interact with people no matter what their age or spiritual background.
The second day of training helped the youth break down some of their preconceived notions. The youth and five, adult reverends explored the topics of poverty and social movements. All agreed that counter-cultural art frees the voices of people who are economically and racially marginalized enabling the creation of more space for diversity in mainstream society: “Most of the training was insight into art as a form of activism, and how movements can be formed through people sharing their background and mind frame. Honestly I was surprised to see these people who are not from certain circumstances still know about them, and knowledge beyond what the media says, and what stereotypes are there. People really care about others. Unity is something people have in their minds. It gave me hope to know the mainstream way of thinking is being revolutionized. It’s great that people of European descent who haven’t experienced oppression still want to create change.”
YSA Executive Director, Sally Hindman, summarizes the experience, “The purpose was: (…) to engage youth as leaders in a major interfaith teaching institution’s celebration of art and spirituality. I felt the youth UNDERSTOOD this connection very well and seemed able to pretty spontaneously participate in an activity celebrating this interface. I learned how natural our youth could be just jumping into something new and enjoying it. I lived that!! They were true leaders at the event. It was very inspiring!!”