Students use art to tackle important issues
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.”