#Fun4thedisabled’s Vanessa Harris visits an art exhibit in Chicago to talk to the artists about their work and the importance of inclusive art.

On screen text reads: Anyone can be an activist. An Artist. Bold. And Able. At The Hyde Park Arts Center.]

[Alex Herrera: Instructor] So the exhibit is called “It Be Like That Sometimes”, and the term, um, which is actually just a slang term for um, accepting truths, accepting things that we can’t quite grapple with.

[Vanchanta Simms: Student] My name is Vachanta Simms. I want to say this as this is my last piece entering in any show in the arts for this year. I wanted to take a hands on approach and get it to be really interactive. So, these two are actually interact and look at each different part, each section to see like, if it reminds you of anything good that you experience or reminds you of a good memory. And this, I guess this is like the “portal” because the title is The Portal to Nostalgia. This is the portal to take you in, and to get you to think about interacting with this piece. So I guess you will see this piece and see yourself in those mirrored pieces, and then you will interact with this, and I guess, start to think. The main thing I want you to walk away with is a good memory or good experience that you had, and to know that there always are silver linings in life and nothing stays the same, everything is temporary.

[Vanessa off screen] Okay, thank you that’s nice!

[Vanchanta] Thank you!

[Alex] …And that’s something the teens came up with as they were thinking about all of the different, uh, just different experiences that teens have growing up. Umm…what it is to belong, what it is to feel displaced.

[Vanessa] What’s your name?

[Jason Mason: Student]  Jason Mason. The character on the shirt, if you look here, he’s staring down at a book and this actual character is based on a, a cartoon by Warner Brothers, The Censored Eleven, that was taken off the air for racial stereotypes. And so, um, the cartoon portrayed, you know racist and ethnic stereotypes, specifically by blacks. And so I wanted to show like, use that character, but use him in a positive light as opposed to this negative light that was used once before. So the character on the shirt, he’s reading the book and so, I want to get away from the actual reality of black people not reading, and so changing that and reimagining that through a shirt, and um, even in the words you can see, it says “Stereotype: N-words read very alot much”. So it’s kind of, you know, again, recreating or reimagining as I like to call it. And so taking that stereotype and really twisting it into something positive. So I’m not really even getting rid of stereotypes, but making positive stereotypes because reading a book you know, would actually educate black people, it would be a better thing, so. You know, I wanted to twist that perception or that message.

[Alex] And they kinda came up with a term, “well it be like that sometimes”, you know? Like, you kinda never know it’s– it’s gonna be lots of ups and downs and being a teenager and that comes with also making work, the work’s gonna have its peaks, it’s gonna have its lows, it’s gonna have its weird times, so it’s kind of embracing a little bit of the weird. A little bit of the unknown, and making work around kind of that acceptance.

[Jasmin Barber: Instructor] You know it can be very frustrating for young people, I think a lot of times we’re really hard on young people and giving them a hard time. Extremely ageist, don’t think they’re capable of anything, um, put them in boxes, tell them that they can’t be powerful, they can’t be amazing, we expect them to just work jobs, you know, to only fill their time with things, like it’s not fair. It’s not fair. So, I wonder um, what we could do to like give them their power back and to give it to them in a different way. Especially when they say the young people only work at these jobs, these 9-5s when you can make art– you know money off your art at a young age or you can start your own business or you can services to help people around you.

[Najmah Amir: Student] Okay. Hello, my name is Najmah Amir and I attend Kenwood Academy. As you all can see, it’s four photographs, and what I really wanted to do was show a perception of Chicago. And right here, you see that this one is more like it’s away while these are all close ups. So with that same idea, Chicago has a lot of negative connotations where, as you can see here it kinda fits that stereotype where it’s like, it’s very urban, there’s a lot of trash on the ground. And it’s kinda gentrified as you can see like the buildings and different things that are happening in that photograph. But as you see here, this one is more…um, to me it looks more advanced where you see headphones and I feel like those are two contrasting ideas where it’s like, it’s very dirty, you can see that it’s pretty old looking while this one is more new. So it’s like two ideas that are juxtapositioning each other. And then these two are also close ups where you see this graffiti which shows the culture of Chicago. And as you put all of them together, you get a sense of like, um– you get a sense of so much culture where there is many different aspects of Chicago, and many different aspects of Chicago that you would get from just looking at a photograph that’s kind of like a bird’s eye view of Chicago.

[Jasmin]  Those things take time and that’s something else about this class too is the restorative justice part, it’s kinda like all those words are separate, it’s not just arts and restorative justice, it’s arts, it’s restorative, and then it’s justice. And the idea of restoring ourselves and giving ourselves something back, like taking my power back. Making myself feel good. Making myself feel empowered, and then that being the work of justice as well because these young people don’t feel empowered. They don’t feel special. They don’t feel seen, they don’t feel heard, they don’t feel important. And giving them art and letting them say how they feel and letting them say exactly how they feel, and then teaching them through it.

[Tiara Coleman: Student] I’m Tiara Coleman.

[Vanessa]  Hi!

[Tiara]  Hi!! In this photograph, it’s really simple. I just wanted everybody to see how simple something can be, but still have a lot of meaning and details in it. Because if you look at it, it’s really…it really says something…but I just don’t know what! But it really does say something. To me, that is. And I really love it.

[Vanessa]  I like that it’s kinda like showing that even in, umm…even in a grocery store, there’s architecture. The way the lines–

[Tiara]  All over.

[Vanessa]  Yeah. Yeah, that’s really cool.

[Najmah]  I’ve always been interested in photographs and I can’t really draw like a perfect picture, so photography was an outlet that I actually could do. And just with practice and instructors that we have, I really enjoy photography and learning more about it, so that’s why I wanted to like, put all my focus into photography.

[Tony Smith: Instructor]  Well, I’d like to say, something that I had that was really an interesting experience. It ties into this interview, as there is a young lady that you probably would know after this interview named Vanessa, who is my student. And what I like about this is it gave me a chance to have range with all different types of– I’m talking five years old, to 75. But I never had an opportunity to work with someone that was providing a service to make life more fruitful for people that may have a slight disability or handicap. Through this, we have come up with incredible tripods that mount on wheelchairs, and microphones and different lighting, and cameras to make what looks like it’s something that’s kinda daunting–

[Vanessa]  –Seem pretty easy.

[Tony] And as you’ve seen, it works. So, I would say probably one of my experiences here that’s been really really impactful on me and what I’ll be doing as an educator is working with people like you, and the teens, and we’ll see what happens on Saturday when I’m working with adults again. Aha! [Laughing]

[Vanessa]  Okay, alright! Well thank you very much, Tony!

[Video ends with credit roll. Captioned by aslcaptions.com.]

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