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This multi-tiered visual arts project explores and celebrates the transformative potential of the creative process in the cultivation and expression of individual voice and social activism among today's youth.
Artist and youth educator Evan Bissell combines his painting and artistic vision with multiple writing, arts education, and creative community projects with Bay Area Youth. Bissell's vibrant portraits, created in collaboration with the youth poets of Youth Speaks that he has worked with, will be on display at Intersection as well as at public locales throughout San Francisco. Part of a larger Arts Commission funded "Civic Life Project," this project includes the gallery exhibition, public art projects, youth-based writing and visual arts workshops, and civic engagement opportunities celebrating the importance and impact of writing, arts education and creative community in individual and social transformation. Corresponding activities will also involve other artists and educators demonstrating methods and philosophies aimed at empowering the next generation through creativity.
"The project is a documentation and celebration of the power of having the time, space, and loving community support to realize one's voice through creativity, imagination, observation, expression and reflection. It is the transformative potential of a creative process rooted in self-expression, communal creation, and supportive community that this project intends to highlight. Education in both process and knowledge has always been central to the project." - Evan Bissell
The exhibition's title, somewhere in advance of nowhere: youth, imagination and transformation, is taken from poet
Jayne Cortez's book of poems and serves as the heart of the exhibit's message highlighting the urgency for the cultivation of imagination in today's youth in order enable them to envision better futures and to create larger social transformations. Masterfully executed in acrylic paint and oil pastel on prepared non-woven media mounted on wooden panels, Bissell's portraits are larger than life-size, imbuing each young subject with heroic, inspirational qualities that are generally not attributed to them in the context of our larger society. In addition to the portraits on display in the Gallery at Intersection, 15 portraits will be installed in public locations throughout the city. The location of each portrait is chosen by the poet (each a member of Youth Speaks' SPOKES) and each portrait is a reflection of the neighborhoods, communities and environments that have special, significant meaning to each subject; giving voice and positive recognition to a youth population that often goes unheard. Take-away maps detailing the locations of the portraits will give people the opportunity to experience these works within their particular community context. Additionally, viewers can interact with each portrait by calling a special number (415) 200-4587 and entering the corresponding extension to listen to the poets in their own words. The audio component of the project is a collaboration between Bissell and The Freedom Archives, an organization that aims to preserve the past, illuminate the present, and shape the future through the archiving of over 8,000 hours of audio and video recordings documenting social justice movements. This public installation brings each portrait to life and enables the project to live within a larger context beyond the gallery world and also provides unlimited, 24-hour accessibility.
Reflecting the positive contributions of young people to their communities and the empowerment of the youth voice through access to positive creative and educational opportunities, this installation and corresponding workshops, panels and performances strive to highlight youth art-making and the transformative qualities of art. Bissell will also involve other artists and art educators in the creation of materials that demonstrate a number of methods and philosophies aimed at empowering the next generation through creativity, culminating in an exhibition space that will be as informative as it is inspiring. Through a series of workshops led by Bay Area Artists, young artists, writers and dancers will create portraits around the idea of expanding imagination that will be included in the evolving exhibition as a document of an active and dynamic creative community.