Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Looking Back

New Urban Arts is a place where people come together to make art. That is what you see. What you do not see are the relationships they build with one another and with the studio as a space. It is a place that attracts amazing people that want to learn from one another and grow together.

As a high school student I was fortunate to have New Urban Arts as an outlet. It was a place where I went after school to write, paint, or draw. The possibilities were endless. After a bad day, I looked forward to going there and forgetting anything that had happened that day. New Urban Arts became a second home, a family.

To this day I am still very connected to the people I have met through New Urban Arts. They have become brothers and sisters to me. I know they will continue to be a big part of my life as I grow.

I have learned from these people that art can be used as a tool to connect and relate to others. I can give Curtis a call when I need to write poetry or words or letters or lines. He showed me how fun it can be to explore thoughts freely through writing. No matter how much I would whine, Kedrin and Jesse taught me the importance of patience while drawing and working in a darkroom. If I need a laugh I can go to the studio to talk to Tyler or Jesse or Kedrin for a few minutes. Tyler reminds me not to take everything too seriously all the time. If I need comfort, I can go to Tamara, Heather, or Sarah. Everything will be okay. These are only a handful of people at New Urban Arts who challenge and affect the way I live my life.

One of my first workshops at New Urban Arts involved binding and making books. I eventually had the opportunity to work with other high school students to teach adults taking ESL classes to make books though a series of workshops. We worked together to create books that allowed them to weave their cultural experiences from their native countries with their experiences here. As a student trying to teach with a slight language barrier, it proved to be challenging but also very rewarding.

At the last workshop we taught, we asked the adult students to reflect about the experience. We learned that we gave them a new way to express themselves, along with a new skill they can teach their children and friends. We gave them a new way to connect to people, which was unexpected and fulfilling. To have that experience at age 14 is amazing to me.

New Urban Arts is just that. It is a place where you connect with people and create magic. I have learned the great power of being able to share knowledge and what that gives a person. New Urban Arts facilitates learning in a way a lot of schools do not.

I did not realize how much New Urban Arts has become a part of my life until I graduated and went to college. I have learned more than I will ever know from just being there. Even if I did not participate in an arts workshop everyday, I still learned from the people around me. I was surrounded by mentors and fellow students, like me, who were going through the same things I was experiencing at the time. I had a family who could relate to me and help me channel anything into my artwork. New Urban Arts was something stable, something I could always rely on.

When you walk into New Urban Arts, you will most likely see chaos. Students, art supplies and loudness everywhere. It is beautiful. Everyone is feeding off each other’s energy. You grow, they grow, and the place grows together.

Ashley

New Urban Arts Student, 2001-2005

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