Since February I have been working with Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) on their latest pilot youth program: Youth Arts Guest Artist in Residence (YAGAR). In my role as Guest Youth Arts Facilitator I had the opportunity to learn from artistic greats like Christine Marie and Kyle Abraham and support the creative visions of local talents including Lex Non Scripta, Chelsea Elisabeth Ware, Edward Galan and Jay-Marie Hill. I also collaborated with two phenomenal YBCA staff, Jova Vargas and Kaela Terreson, in bringing the program to life! But what was both inspiring and humbling was the chance to be in the room with young people again… building, experimenting, growing, laughing and making it all up along the way! Since leaving Urban Roots in 2013, I have not had much opportunity to work closely with teenagers, and while it is admittedly a trying, button pushing endeavor, I do love it. And I do miss it! Where else can you find such a special blend of candor, innovation, eye rolling, sleep deprivation, creativity, loud talking, slouching, over-confidence, extreme shyness, giggles, inside jokes, coolness and willingness to dream? What a rush!
This program was uniquely powerful in that the theme of the youth arts programming at YBCA is artist as activist. So when I arrived on the scene, these young folks were already diving deep into questions of identity, race, gender, institutionalized oppression, poverty, privilege and the ways to engage these themes through a rigorous and thoughtful arts practice.
Our work together culminated last Friday, in Young Artist Laboratory: Emergent (Eco)nomy a night of site-specific group performance that took over the grand lobby of the YBCA building and a gallery installation of the young artivists’ individual work. All of the work shared was so well executed and powerfully displayed. And while I do not yet have a finalized version of the full video of the evening’s performances, I would like to share one piece of work with you.
The link above will take you to the final video project created by Kenzo Yanni Velasquez. As a graduating senior, Yanni questions the validity of Stanford's elite status as an ultimate aspiration for many young people of color. His piece is powerful, thought provoking and beautiful. Check it out. And if you scroll down, you can check the live version he performed in the Young Artist Lab. Yanni is also currently entered in an essay writing contest for a college scholarship. Take a moment to show support and apprecitaion for his path by voting for him (all you have to do is write your name and email address! Super easy!) CLICK HERE!
This young man is going very big places! Don’t sleep!
Also, stay tuned to my website COMMUNITY page for a link to the full night of performances!