21Minus: A Collaborative Effort

21Minus, May 17, 2014 Photo: Cooper Chambers-Hines, © MCA Chicago

In anticipation of 21Minus this Saturday, Mia Neumann, a first-year Teen Creative Agency member, reflects on her experience both designing the event and collaborating on her project.

I first heard about the Teen Creative Agency when my best friend, Gracee Wallach, told me she was proposing a project for an event called 21Minus. She was ecstatic about the opportunity to show her art, which was very powerful and personal, even though she did not consider herself a practicing artist. The guidance that she was given, along with the incredible platform the TCA provided, was unmatched.

Watching Gracee and the other artists that day inspired me; and my curiosity about the teens running the event led me to search for information about the program and how to join. I knew I needed to be a part of whatever had made something as magical as 21Minus happen and I couldn’t wait to learn more about it.

The day I was accepted into the Teen Creative Agency, now almost a year ago, was also the day I came up with a concept I wanted to explore and bring to the 21Minus festivities.

I was sitting in my room embroidering poetry into old T-shirts for a series I was working on called “Hanging Up My Dirty Laundry” and the idea of creating this same process for the masses came to mind.

I wanted to create a space where barriers are broken down between strangers, and where tensions can safely be released due to the anonymity and the openness of the experience. So, I proposed the idea of creating a therapeutic public art installation titled Dirty Laundry for 21Minus. In my series, this mechanism for sharing thoughts was really moving for me. By inviting the audience to “air out” their covert thoughts through a transcription of their baggage onto fabric, I hope to create an environment where the audience can appreciate each other, participate in a therapeutic process, and dissipate the stress that secrets can have on their conscience.

A three-by-three grid of white post-it notes with text taped to the front window of the MCA
21Minus, May 17, 2014 Photo: Gillian Fry, © MCA Chicago

Dirty Laundry will be presented alongside 24 others works by young artists who answered the TCA’s call to collaborate for 21Minus. With the support of my fellow TCA members, we have worked to refine these ideas and I’m excited to see all of them brought to life on May 30, after seeing this intense process unfold. The passion that flows through the members of the TCA and the artists in preparation for this event could only mean that the final product will be unimaginable.

Working behind the scenes to create the event as a TCA member while also developing a project as a collaborator provides an interesting lens. As both a curator and a creator I am able to help shape the backbone of this remarkable coming together of young artists. At the same time, I am also discovering what it means to bring your ideas as an individual artist to a larger, group effort.

Besides the lifelong friendships I’ve formed with people I met only eight months ago, the opportunities and experiences I’ve gained from the Teen Creative Agency are truly unforgettable.

Four young adults pose playfully for a photograph on the stairs of the entrance to the MCA.
Members of TCA Photo: Mikayla Delson, © MCA Chicago

Come, be inspired, and see every artistic collaboration this Saturday, from 2–6 pm.