Stu­dents use art to tackle im­por­tant is­sues

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - YOUTH | CAMPUS -

FOX VAL­LEY, Illi­nois — Fox Val­ley area stu­dents of­fered their take on im­por­tant is­sues through art at an ex­hi­bi­tion in Batavia.

“I think the big­gest is­sues we face to­day are sui­cide and de­pres­sion,” says Tyler Mag­nu­son, 17, of Aurora. “I like the con­cept of peo­ple ex­press­ing them­selves through art rather than words.”

Stu­dents rep­re­sent­ing a num­ber of area school dis­tricts dis­played work re­cently at Water Street Stu­dios as part of an aware­ness cam­paign spon­sored by Kane County Ju­ve­nile Jus­tice Coun­cil.

Kane County Ju­ve­nile Jus­tice Coun­cil Co­or­di­na­tor Ju­lia Anken­bruck says about two dozen sub­mis­sions were en­tered through the pro­gram and that en­tries were largely sub­mit­ted by high­school-age stu­dents.

“We had a theme each month, and the ma­jor­ity of the draw­ings were done in col­ored pen­cils or oil pas­tels and put on poster board,” Anken­bruck ex­plains. “There were five win­ners se­lected that are on dis­play, and they are go­ing to re­ceive a plaque as well as some art sup­plies and gift bags which are be­ing do­nated by the stu­dio here.”

The themes of the pro­gram in­cluded home­less­ness in Jan­uary, un­healthy re­la­tion­ships in Fe­bru­ary, bul­ly­ing in March, sub­stance abuse in April and men­tal health is­sues in May.

Pro­gram man­ager for Kane County Ju­ve­nile Jus­tice Pamela Ely says about half of the sub­mis­sions at the event came “from my kids who are in de­ten­tion”.

“Ob­vi­ously when you are in de­ten­tion, you’ve got a lot of time on your hands and when I of­fered some of these kids the op­por­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate, they did,” Ely says. “A lot of these kids come from dif­fi­cult back­grounds and know some of these is­sues per­son­ally by liv­ing through them.”

Par­ents and stu­dents as well as lo­cal of­fi­cials like Lake Cowart, as­sis­tant state’s at­tor­ney for Kane County, vis­ited the ex­hi­bi­tion. Cowart ac­knowl­edges that it is hard some­times for oth­ers to ex­press them­selves in words.

“Kids are skilled in other ways, in­clud­ing art, and hav­ing some­thing like this is an ex­cel­lent way to give kids a voice and ex­press them­selves,” she says. “In­creas­ing aware­ness of the is­sues and risk fac­tors is im­por­tant given some of the chal­lenges fam­i­lies are fac­ing.”

Marisela Jau­regui of Aurora says her daugh­ter, Crys­tal Jau­regui, 13, was one of the stu­dents who sub­mit­ted a draw­ing which con­sisted of a pair of hands bound in chains. She says she found the draw­ing to be “scary”.

“My daugh­ter is re­ally quiet but I know she loves draw­ing and paint­ing,” she says. “Her pic­ture was scary, but I’m glad she’s found a way to ex­press her­self.”

Crys­tal says she worked on her art project for about a week and that her in­spi­ra­tion came from think­ing about the aftermath fol­low­ing some­thing trau­matic.

“If you think about the topic of rape, for ex­am­ple, it’s the type of thing that holds you down like you’re in chains and you can never for­get it,” she says. “The back­ground I used in my draw­ing is the space you live in af­ter­wards along with what you re­mem­ber.”

Anken­bruck says the work of the stu­dents on dis­play “would be used in pro­mo­tional ma­te­ri­als” the Kane County Ju­ve­nile Jus­tice Coun­cil plans to pro­duce in the com­ing months.

Mag­nu­son pre­dicts those stu­dent-in­spired ma­te­ri­als would be ef­fec­tive.

“I think the mes­sage is bet­ter in that you have kids re­lat­ing to kids, rather than adults al­ways telling kids ‘no’,” he says. “Kids telling other kids not to do some­thing is a lot more ef­fec­tive.”

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