Thursday, July 2, 2009

Youth Spirit Artworks

Yesterday I stopped by the mural project studio of Youth Spirit Artworks, an interfaith organization whose mission is to use art to empower and transform the lives of youth, giving young people the skills, experience and self confidence to meet their full potential.
Youth Spirit Artworks has a simple yet ingenious organizational model. Various organizations in the area refer homeless and low-income youth who are passionate about art to Youth Spirit Artworks. Youth Spirit Artworks then provides them them with commercial artistic training (color theory, design, etc.) during which the youth receive a stipend. The youth practice their skills painting furniture which Youth Spirit Artworks sells/auctions; the youth get to keep half the money that their furniture brings in.
Currently, they're also working on a mural in south Berkeley. The youth are being led by the famous muralist Edythe Boone, who was one of seven artists to create the mural on the Women's Building in San Francisco. Yet even under the guidance of a professional, the youth are active collaborators in the design of the painting. As a group they pick out images from magazines and other sources that fit with the music theme of the project. Boone then determines the existing skills of the youth and matches them with images to which their strengths are best suited. Currently they're developing their skills by practicing on paper before they put their brushes to the wall.

The area outside the studio is scattered with benches also painted by the youth.
Youth Spirit Artwork's youth participants, staff and board are praying and discerning about the start up this fall of weekly Sunday afternoon (2pm-4pm) interfaith Scripture sharing and visual art making at their art studio at 1769 Alcatraz Avenue (near Adeline St.) in S. Berkeley. They envision this being a time that would be open to both the homeless and low-income youth they empower through their interfaith arts program, and also to other folks from the community who might be interested in participating. This would be a special opportunity to ground the ministry YSA is undertaking in art and worship as they begin each week. There are lots of ways this could evolve as diverse members of the interfaith religious community play a role incorporating their own traditions in the sharing and art making time.

I'm particularly excited about YSA's considered art worship because of the many churches I've visited, most limit their arts ministry to hosting outside arts organizations or displaying historic artwork. Art often feels like a tangential or subsidiary component to the religious understanding of parishioners. YSA's visual art making in response to various scriptures would bring active creative expression into the center of the spiritual experience of participants.

Unfortunately, I won't be around next year, but if you're in the area, I recommend checking it out.
For more information or to provide input on this idea contact: Sally Hindman at 282-0396 or email:

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