October 26, 2008

'Self in the City': Creative teens host art show Nov. 15

By Jalissa Henderson, Sage Sanchez and Amanda VanSwol

You can forget the stereotypes about lazy teens. There's a new crew of creative youth in town, and they've got the work to prove it.

On November 15, Main Gallery will be hosting its fall premier, entitled "Self in the City." The event will take place at the Racine Arts Council, 316 Sixth Street in Downtown Racine, from 6-9 pm. Highlights of the evening will include a screening of video work, an exhibition of paintings and sketches, and a performance of poetry and fiction.

The event is free and open to the public and light refreshments will be served. Those who attend will also receive a copy of a newly released magazine featuring writing and artwork by the youth.

Main Gallery, a 13-year-old program, provides job skills training to teens ages 14-19 by teaching them workforce fundamentals while they make art. The program had been spearheaded by the City's Department of Parks and Recreation until six years ago, when the city brought the Racine Arts Council on board to help administer the program and select artists-in-residence to work with the youth.

Racine County Workforce Development recently invested funding in the program to make it accessible during the school year. Previously, Main Gallery had only operated during the summer.

Presently, teens from across the city and representing almost every high school are working in one of three different art disciplines: video, painting and drawing, and creative writing. Each of the groups is working out of a different community center, although they collaborate occasionally.

"We're visiting local public institutions, such as the zoo and Racine Art Museum," said Jessika Mikol, Program Coordinator of Main Gallery. "It's so exciting because it helps the teens collaborate as they explore their connection with the city by making site-specific artwork."

Although the whole public is invited to the November 15 premier, community leaders, educators, parents and teens are particularly encouraged.

"Main Gallery is not like other jobs," said Jalissa Henderson, a participant in this fall's program. "I hope other teens come. They might get inspired or decide to apply."

The teens aren't the only ones excited about their program, either.

"Main Gallery is such an important program," said Lorna Hennig, executive director of the Racine Arts Council. "These teens are learning valuable skills and enjoying it, because the arts require a kind of thinking that other jobs don't encourage."

Jalissa Henderson, Sage Sanchez and Amanda VanSwol are members of Main Gallery's creative writing group.

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