On May 18, Natasha Huey and Gabriel Cortez came to teach our youth about creating unique works of art. The youth were to get their inspiration from existing art of different mediums. These included song lyrics (Tupac, Nas, E40, etc) and, later, pieces of visual art. The workshop presented the youth with ways to use these mediums in creating personal work.
In the first part of the workshop, the youth selected song lyrics, and were told to use them to make their own poetry. They crossed out lines to create new meanings, or took lines from different songs and added them together to make a new poem. Many youth said they felt challenged by the activity: “One challenge I faced was writing from created lyrics. Today, I learned to make a poem out of another poem or piece of art, creating art out of art.” The youth learned to find ways to make other’s individuals work uniquely theirs.
A youth elaborated, “it was a challenge to find my own voice through the other’s art.” Ironically, some youth found it easier to write from their heads. Often, the youth would stop writing, feeling discouraged they were not good writers. They got encouragement to kept trying instead of giving up. This exercise helped them feel more confident in their creations. It also led to an unexpected lesson: “I learned that we are all creative.” Many youth self-reflected on inherent ability for creativity, the need to overcome self-doubt and an understanding of a new process for creating individual work.
All the youth wanted to share their work. “I learned to build off others. I liked hearing other people share even though I was challenged by sharing my own work.” It can be difficult to open up to others. However, in the discussion, our youth talked about growing up without a father, racism, and fear of safety using lyrics. A youth observed, “many people created descriptive poems.” The youth used lyrics to talk more specifically about their lives. The disclosures helped the group to feel close. As one youth summarized, “I LOVED sharing the poetry as a group: such positivity and support!”
Natasha demonstrated the next steps: how to put ideas into a web diagram. She picked up a painting. Then, she noted the image, color, line, and texture in boxes with more descriptive phrases of what she was seeing in the art. The youth found this presentation informative: “I learned how to outline my poem so that it makes writing easier. I liked the option of choosing a specific piece of art to make a poem about.” “I learned how to see paintings in a deeper way.” Many youth found it helpful to organize their reactions and develop more complexities about their piece.
It was then time for the youth to go off on their own with a piece of visual artwork. It was to be the inspiration for their poem. They wrote reactions based on what they saw. The youth saw messages about peace, growing up, friendship and personal growth in the art. The idea of looking at something concrete and thinking abstractly about it, challenged some youth: “I had a hard time writing about the pictures.” Yet many youth embraced the activity. “I liked the option of choosing a piece to make a poem about.” When the youth began to share their work, it brought new life to art that the community had seen all Spring in a totally different context.
The reactions were very positive. Youth said,
- “I thought the poetry was very inspirational.”
- “I liked that everyone picked an art piece to share.”
- “Something that I found most enjoyable about the workshop was being able to hear everyone’s perceptions of different pieces of art.”
- “It was so different. I liked how different everyone’s responses to the paintings were different.”
- “I enjoyed the engagement of art with poetry. I wish there was more time!”
The youth unanimously thought this workshop was incredible due to the energy that Natasha and Gabriel brought to the program. “Gabriel and Natasha are amazing.” “I like Natasha and Gabriel. They are fun and inspiring.” “I like the energy that Natasha and Gabriel bring to YSA.” “Today was fun. The activities were very hands on and it kept everyone busy. Everyone was enjoying it. I learned a new type of poetry. I liked how everything was fun.” “I learned that from the trainers. They brought something I’ve never really saw.” All of these unique responses by the youth bring continued attention to Natasha and Gabriel’s positivity and ability to foster community within the workshop setting.