“Kids at this age are perfectly ready to create stories. Characters spill from their brains. These characters might be the product of an active imagination, or a response to something they read in books or saw on TV, or they may possibly be a way of processing their own personal development.”
— CAW Teaching Artist Ayla Rexroth on student-created cartoon characters in the Cartoon and Anatomy program at Hamilton Grange Middle School.
Going back to school to earn your high school diploma can be a struggle; so can wrestling with complex issues of social justice. In a CAW integrated art class at Innovations Diploma Plus High School in Manhattan, students are challenged to do both.
The most important connections in our lives are the ones closest to home. This summer, our Multimedia Team created five short films about nonprofits and other organizations that work to improve the quality of life in our city. The subjects include pianos in public places, a grass-roots effort to make improvements to a local city park, an ambitious plan to create murals in Upper Manhattan of 314 North American birds threatened by climate change, and a program that brings soccer and poetry to young NYC residents. Of course, there is also a documentary about Creative Art Works summer Public Art Youth Employment program.
“Migrations” is part of the The Audubon Mural Project, a collaboration between the National Audubon Society and Gitler &_____ Gallery to create murals of North American birds around Washington Heights, where John James Audubon lived during the last years of his life. The project’s goal is to commission artists to paint murals of 314 species of birds which are threatened by a warming climate.
“The family that I’ve created outside of my blood
Molded me into the person I want to be
And the greater idea is that my life has just begun
And my train ride ain’t over yet.”
In the internet age, when social media platforms allow young people to instantly broadcast their thoughts and opinions to the world with a just a few taps on their smart phone, face-to-face conversations can seem quaint, if not downright low-tech. Yet impromptu speaking is a skill that both kids and adults use every day in school, with friends and family, and on the job. In January, students in CAW after-school art workshops had a chance to talk about their art to friends, family, teachers and administrative staff in RL (real-life) at culmination events.
"...Our mural began and we finished the plan,
And I just want to say how proud that I am.
I’m blessed for my God, blessed for my people,
Blessed to be up here rather down there with evil.
Blessed to be on the mural that’s mentioned,
The mural that brings out attention,
The mural that we have invented,
This is our Ascension!"
All art-making is an act of communication. The processes that surround exhibiting artwork — the development of artists’ statements, the receiving of feedback and recognition — are essential elements in supporting the development of a sense of agency: the belief that intentional, creative action can transform the world around us.
“Kids at this age want to tell their own stories. The cartooning class gives them the skills and the opportunity to do that.”
CAW Teaching Artist Tom Palmer
Most people who pass by our Public Art Youth Employment worksites are nothing short of supportive and encouraging, but on very rare occasions, you encounter a detractor. In this short video, Creative Art Works Youth Apprentice Sophia Ridley shares her story about finding her voice when confronted by an aggressive critic.