Teen Artists Learn the Value of Hard Work

By: Celia Martinez

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local NewsReality, rules, and rebellion; this was the theme of the 2012 summer arts apprenticeship program put together by Street-Level Youth Media, an organization dedicated to the empowerment of urban youth through media and digital arts. Their yearly summer apprenticeship program combined 15 high school students with adult mentor artists and together created a multimedia exhibit now on display in their West Town multimedia arts center, 1637 N. Ashland Ave.

“All of our teen artists and all the adult mentor artists go through an application process,” said Manwah Lee, executive director of Street-Level Youth Media. “It’s a selective program.”

The organization provides free media arts training programming throughout the school year for youth ages eight to 22 in multimedia areas like video production, audio and music production, graphic design and digital photography and all workshops are taught by experienced professionals.

It is during the summer, however, when Street-Level Youth Media puts together a multi-media gallery show. This year’s theme encouraged the participants to interpret the meaning of reality, rules and rebellion and the gallery showcased works of art that included video, photography, music and even the recreation of teenager’s bedroom. “The exhibit is way for these young people to express their personal ideas, but really we always use the group projects to give the teens an opportunity to work together,” said Lee

Those accepted into the apprenticeship program must have knowledge of multimedia but don’t necessarily need to have the knowledge of putting together an art exhibit as they work with their mentor artists four days a week from 10am to 3pm for eight weeks. “It’s a big commitment,” Lee said. “It takes a big part of your summer.”

One of the teen artists who made the commitment this year was 18-year old Deanna Robinson. Robinson said she first heard of the organization from a teacher and has been involved with the organization for some time now.

“What Deanna wanted to do was take on the reality of hip-hop,” said Matt Woods, lead artist of the program. “It’s about the empowerment of women and rebellion against the current kind of mainstream standard [of hip-hop],” Woods added.

Throughout the process, Robinson not only learned how to put together a multimedia exhibit, but she also had to step outside of her comfort zone and organize meetings to bring in several women hip-hop artists into the studio and she wrote interview questions for them. Robinson then created a pod cast with that information and eventually created a hip-hop track between herself and three other female artists. Her exhibit, titled “Women in Hip-Hop” combined images of female hip-hop artists on the walls with her track and pod cast playing on a boom box.

“It was very challenging because you get frustrated… you get a little nervous,” said Robinson about dealing with time pressure of only having eight weeks to complete her massive multimedia project. “But I also had a strong support system from Street-Level.”

The program not only teaches the principles of putting together a gallery show with the use of multimedia, but during the process, the youth involved learned how to work individually and with a team, they learned about time management, they gained leadership skills and were encouraged to express their own individual ideas. “I feel that [my exhibit] succeeded strongly,” said Robinson. “But I didn’t do this on my own.”

The exhibit is open to the public Monday through Friday from 10am to 6pm and will run through September 11th. For more information, visit www.street-level.org.


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