Art exhibit gives voice to disadvantaged youth

Art is not only an expression of self, but also a representation of the struggles and triumphs of a culture.

For local disadvantaged youth, the exhibit “Expressing Human Rights: All People Free and Equal” is an opportunity to showcase and explore how human rights issues relate to the world around them.

“Expressing Human Rights” brings the work from different youth programs to Fletcher Library on West campus from Jan. 20 through March 16.

“One of the important things this exhibit does is it looks at disadvantaged youth and promotes advocacy to meet the human rights needs of these youth,” said Judy Butzine, co-director of the Cultural Arts Coalition at ASU. “This artwork is so powerful.”

South Mountain High School art students and two youth detention programs contributed to the exhibit. These include the Thoughtful Warrior program, “Release the Fear” and local YMCA program Las Artes de Maricopa.

Martin Moreno leads Las Artes de Maricopa, a program for disadvantaged youth ages 16 to 21 who are working to overcome difficult circumstances. The program contributed three pieces as part of their “Hero Series,” which included paintings of Nelson Mandela, Gabrielle Giffords and Mother Teresa.

The youth artists selected these notable figures as a tribute for their achievements in peacemaking, Moreno said.

Las Artes de Maricopa helps guide participants in the program toward achieving his or her GED.

“What is unique about Las Artes is we incorporate art to teach discipline for the program,” Moreno said.

Moreno said students enter with a 7th-grade education and typically work four to 12 months earning their GED.

Dennis Isbell, the director of West campus library, said the exhibit gives youth the chance to get an introduction to ASU.

“The sense of accomplishment the student artists have when they see their art displayed at the University is tremendous,” Isbell said. “My hope is it may lead some of them to consider pursuing a college education.”

For all of the program leaders, the most rewarding part is working with the young artists and, in turn, seeing the pride they take in their work.

“I will circulate among (South Mountain High School students) and ask students which piece of art is theirs, and it is very gratifying to me to see how much quiet pride they take in showing me their work,” Isbell said.

Isbell said although many are young students, audiences will be impressed with the skill of the artists.

“It is interesting to see how these young people, some of them in very difficult situations, view the issues of human rights and freedom,” Isbell said. “In a way, you can see them thinking out loud on a canvas or other medium.”


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