We Still Live: Culture, Identity and Art
This Summer 2017, Arts Street embarked on an amazing adventure into culture,identity and self-reflection: We Still Live (WSL). This community-based art project, in collaboration with 46 Arts Street@YEA youth, artist Thomas Evans and Denver gang prevention programs, worked with youth to combat gang recruitment by exploring self-identity and cultural heritage through art. Participants spent 6 weeks exploring their identity and how to build community wealth through visual and spoken word art and youth-led community initiatives.
This collaborative project was inspired by a survey given to youth where they revealed gang violence was the primary issue in their communities. According to the Department of Justice, young people get involved in gangs due to a “need for family” and “generational involvement.” It became clear that to strategically respond to this issue, youth need pro-social activities that address elements of gang participation and provide youth the opportunity to explore cultures and collective creativity.
Inspiration also came from Thomas Evan’s artistic work, They Still Live (TSL). We felt an extension of this project would be a perfect model for exploring gang issues. Evans developed TSL as a journey into self-discovery. He worked with local African-Americans to portray their culture and identity. The exhibition combined photographic portraits, African artifacts, and the models’ DNA results to link each to their heritage. Their DNA was revealed at a gallery opening next to their portraits. The project gained national recognition and participants were greatly impacted.
After their 6 month intensive, students came away with a better knowledge of how to be a part of their community and what cultures exist in Denver. In the fall, these same youth will receive the results of their own DNA test and begin to use different art techniques to determine how they relate to their heritage.
We were so impressed by these young peoples’ hard work this summer and look forward to seeing its completion in the fall.
Stay tuned for final exhibition details and WSL updates.