Art Workshops with YALI (Young African Leaders Initiative)

My first week back from painting in Spain I was invited by the Making Justice Program to share my creative energy with teens from the Madison Shelter and Dane County Detention Center, as well as 5 members of the African Studies Program from UW-Madison for YALI (Young African Leaders Initiative). In the morning session I lead the group on how to recreate “Starry Night” into paper mosaics, but if that felt a little daunting, a few pictures of trees were also shown for examples. Most of the group chose the trees, but a few made some interesting versions of Van Gogh’s classic. The best part of the class was the discussion to follow, where we spoke about our process. A 12 year old girl made a beautiful tree and shared with us it's meaning: "Like people, the roots have to be strong for the trunk to be strong. We need space from our parents at times, just as the roots need space to grow. The leaves will be healthy if the tree is healthy and the horizon spans off in the distance like we can always look beyond what is happening and focus on what is to come." This was followed by a well deserved round of applause from all of us. Another highlight was when Idris from Nigeria (YALI) explained his process in making a mosaic is similar to his thinking of being a doctor- formulaic and precise. He drew his plan on the paper and intensely focused on doing it exactly like the picture, while others let their projects flow more freely. Very interesting to see the different methods and outcomes.

In the afternoon we had a large group of about 22 teens and 9 adults for our detention center visit (group pics aren’t posted to protect privacy), where I began with a quick showing of my recent street art from Spain followed by a crash course on a few abstract greats; Basquiat, Haring and Miro. All have very different styles that provided great examples for our abstract flow project; in which we used paint markers to create different designs on canvas. The only rule was the shapes couldn’t touch each other. I lead them through each step, but allowed complete creative freedom, offering help along the way. A few of the teens surprised us, and themselves, with their abstract skills! The pictures speak for themselves.

Final highlight of the day, after the workshop a teen from the detention center gave me fist bump props for my street art and said “fresh paintings” =)

Thank you to Team Bubbler at the Madison Public Library for organizing and inviting me!