The Artists in Action program creates a unique, family environment where young artists develop their own talent by learning from each other, local BIPOC artists, and historic artist-activists. Their journey of self-reflection and idea-sharing is deeply rooted in a focus on social justice, resulting in young people who grow not only as artists but as community change agents. They learn to leverage their gifts and talents in a communal movement toward equity. This involves a plethora of lifelong skills including active listening, compassion, facilitating and engaging in tough conversations, public speaking, event planning, gathering and incorporating community ideas and feedback, and the process of creating pieces that represent ideas from multiple voices. They create public art pieces in the community that involves a neighbor-driven ideation process and hold significance for the community in which the piece is installed. They host an open mic event and curate performing art pieces that engage the audience and foster both dialogues, as well as healing, resonance, and joy.
We like to use the word Shalom in referring to the power of their art. Shalom means peace, justice, healing, wholeness and connection; all of their pieces are created with the purpose of bringing at least one aspect of shalom to themselves and to their community. While an art class may teach young people technical expertise, Artists in Action specifically teaches young artists to view their art as a tool for advocacy and healing. They learn about the healing power of art from local art therapists and artists (from hip hop songwriters to sculptors) and explore various avenues of art as self-care (from meditative painting to spoken word). They also explore the importance of celebration as an act of resistance and a way to change the narrative about themselves and their community. This learning is not limited to them alone? they share these healing qualities with the community through beautification projects (public art such as sculptures or murals, small public art pieces such as pottery in the community garden, a temporary art installation) and healing spaces (open mic, performing arts event/Block party, a middle school art workshop). One artist described a recent summer?s mural this way: ?To some people, it was a time to remember [the young man it was dedicated to], for others it was seeing hope for a community in general. It was a community coming together, friends coming together, a city coming together, all to have a new start.?
Students will have a chance to try a variety of artistic mediums (listed above), and gain exposure to art via field trips, including the Institute of Contemporary Art, Museum of Fine Arts, DeCordova Sculpture Park, Roxbury Mural Walk, a pottery studio and more. After visiting the Basquiat exhibit at the MFA, one youth shared ?It was us coming in as a group of artists on a mission to empower our communities? we learned together and got inspired by an artist who was already empowering the communities around him.? Youth will personally engage with local BIPOC artists across mediums, from singing/songwriting to spoken word and painting. They will explore career fields in the arts and social justice arenas, engaging with professionals from entrepreneurs to art therapists.
In addition, young artists will have the opportunity to step into leadership roles. This is an essential experience as a young professional and as a young artist. They build public speaking, teaching, and facilitation skills as they lead workshops and events. They teach their peers through artist-activist profiles, current event case studies, and presentations of their own artistic journeys. The program is built to encourage all young people to grow in sharing their ideas and actively listening to those of their peers, the community, and individuals on all sides of social justice initiatives.