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Celebrating Young Artists: Insights from My Art, My Story Exhibit

by Theodore Campen

Did you know that artists make up only 1.6% of the workforce? With such a small percentage representing our creative backbone, youth artists become all the more important to our society. Thankfully, the My Super Powers Foundation held a Youth Art Exhibit on April 6th, 2024, in which seven young artists presented five pieces of their artwork to a very grateful audience. The artists ranged in age from sophomore year of high school to college students, and there was a wide variety of art presented. This exhibit helped to inspire other young artists and provided a way for the participants to express themselves and get their pieces noticed.

The event was hosted at The Alive Center, a nonprofit organization located in Naperville, Illinois. Their mission is to help empower teens to become confident and passionate leaders, which pairs this organization very well with the My Super Powers Foundation, with both having goals in promoting growth in our youth communities. Not only does The Alive Center provide a space for talent to be displayed, they also host fundraisers that benefit the local community! The Youth Art Exhibit managed to help many people.

With the amount of artists present, there was bound to be diversity in the way they expressed themselves. With the multiple different art forms featured, including photography, sculpture, painting, and drawing (with jazz accompaniment!!), the exhibit had a very complete feel to it, with each artist displaying works that meant very different things. The jazz band from Plainfield Central High School was present at the event, generously providing background music that only worked to enhance the overall experience. The artists remained near their artwork for nearly the entirety of the almost two-hour long event, conversing with spectators and allowing for a deeper understanding of the artwork present.

Each artist had a personal statement displayed next to their work, and throughout the event each artist was able to give their own individual speech on the impact their art has had on them and what it symbolizes. For instance, the photography of Aspen Stenson, a junior at West Aurora High School, was titled “Faces of Old and New”, and centered around people who were both well known to Aspen or complete strangers. This journey was important to Aspen for many reasons, and as stated in her artist statement it helped build her social skills as well as making it relatively easier to talk to new people. Many in this day and age struggle to communicate with the people around us, yet Aspen worked hard to use art not only to capture beauty, but also to further a valuable connection with a variety of interesting figures. One of their pictures features a barista who agreed to have her photo taken by Aspen so as to showcase her interesting appearance. However, not everyone wants their photo taken, which occasionally leads to anxiety. Despite occasionally having some decline the offer, Aspen has continued to build social confidence as well as capture the visages of many captivating people.

Some of the other artists present at the exhibit had similar stories, specifically relating to the past few years and how hard it has been to find self meaning in the wake of the pandemic and other similarly traumatic events. Through a multitude of other mediums (including but not limited to: chalk, oil pastels, and reed pens), Lilah Bergbower, a student at Joliet Junior College, demonstrates a journey of self discovery and improvement amidst the confusion brought by growing older. After she graduated high school, she said that she felt profoundly “listless” and “incredibly lost”, with the one thing she was sure of being “I like art”. Therefore, she decided to try new methods of expression, even if they originally seemed strange to her. Lilah made a very large amount of progress in a relatively short amount of time, and her improvement could be seen throughout her pieces.

While this event provided a platform for youth art to be displayed, My Super Powers Foundation also offered the opportunity for the artists to advertise their talents to potential clients! One attendee offered to buy a piece of art from Eli McLaughlin (a Sophomore from Wheaton Warrenville High School), who specializes in self photography. However, there were opportunities that weren’t strictly monetary. Some artists put pieces on display that had been used for their college applications, allowing for those interested to find skilled individuals and possibly help on the journey to higher education. Other exhibits gave young adults inspiration for the work they might create, both for themselves and to get into their dream schools. Nicolette Rose proves a good example, as most of her pieces were taken from the twenty that she submitted when applying to the college that she currently attends, which is the College of DuPage. She talks about her apprenticeship with Steve Eberhardt, a skilled artist, who helped her achieve new heights. Stories such as these continue to inspire many.

The Youth Art Exhibit had many purposes, and excelled at all of them. Not only did the event bring at least sixty people together in appreciation of the arts, but it also provided a platform for up-and-coming artists to present their works and their stories to those who might benefit from it. The event allowed a multitude of people to further bond with each other and become inspired by the talent in our youth community. The Alive Center also helped further the cause, providing a well organized space for such an event to take place!

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Theodore Campen is a sophomore at Wheaton Warrenville South High School. An aspiring professional writer, Theo also enjoys playing Dungeons and Dragons, Cross Country , and cooking/baking.

Photo credit: Edwin Alejandro D

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