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Teens Take Over: Their Destiny

by Holden Thomas

by Hyohee Kim

by Isabella Harbison

blog intro

Each year, the MCA’s Teen Creative Agency (TCA) puts on 21Minus, a teen takeover of the museum featuring performances, workshops, zines, and installations from young people all over Chicago. What takes place in a blur of energy and enthusiasm over an afternoon in June is the product of months of work by many people. TCA is taking over the blog to give you an inside look at the process—and some of the young artists involved.

For this post, we wanted to highlight two out of the numerous projects proposed for 21Minus this year: America’s Modern Alphabet by Kyra Young and The Garden proposed by the artist duo Double L. We chose these works because of the powerful message they gave off for motivating young people to reflect on and materialize their struggles in order to confront and take charge of their futures.

We hope that this year’s 21Minus projects get people talking about big issues in their lives. As an example of what those conversations sound like, we discussed these two proposed works. Here’s what we talked about:

Kyra Young, America’s Modern Alphabet

Kyra Young, sketch for America’s Modern Alphabet, 2018

Image courtesy of the artist

Conversation about America’s Modern Alphabet

HYOHEE KIM: Kyra Young proposed America’s Modern Alphabet—the idea of having 10 soup bowls, each representing an ethnic background, where participants would write some of the fears they had about their future in alphabet soup. What are some of the things you fear about your future? What words would be in your soup bowl?

HOLDEN THOMAS: For me personally, I would put “assimilation.” I fear a lot about the politics surrounding the trans body as trans-ness as an identity becomes more known by the public. [That awareness] can be a good thing, but also can be very negative. I fear the assimilation of trans identities into cis-ness, because that's something I don't believe I can ever achieve as a trans person.

HYOHEE: Yeah, when people begin to label really complex things like identities into categories, that can be really unforgiving to the people and situations that don’t fit into them. As an immigrant and person of color, that mindset is especially scary when it comes to dealing with the law because it can be used to exile myself and others like me. Had this project reached Chicago youth right now, as Kyra Young put it, people would expect “innocent, happy phrases.” But she goes on to say that they would “instead be struck by confessions and worries of what kids in Chicago face each day, especially with the threats that have been posed by the current presidency.”

ISABELLA HARBISON: Absolutely. And as for me, my soup bowl would say “gun violence.” I used to live in a really bad neighborhood that had so much gun violence. Sometimes I think about the kids I used to go to school with and their experiences with guns and violence and domestic abuse. I moved away from all of that, but it’s still happening, and it can happen to a lot of people who live in the north side, or the west side, or the south side—or anywhere in Chicago.

Double L, The Garden

Double L, sketch for The Garden, 2018

Image courtesy of the artist

Conversation about The Garden

HYOHEE: Our second piece is called The Garden, by Double L, where participants can write a goal they want to reach by the end of 2018, plant it in a pot, and water it. Symbolically, that can mean growing your own goals, really having them flourish. What are some of your goals attached to some of those fears that you have? Do you have goals to conquer those fears?

ISABELLA: I want to voice my opinion, for the most part—to really bring up things people don’t want to talk about, or things that are hard to talk about. An example is my experience of race and how I’m white-passing, but also Latina and black. I never want to talk about it because I don’t want to bring up an argument or something. It is a big part of my life, but I never know how to talk about it or share it with anyone else.

HOLDEN: I think my goal is to solidify what I want to do in my life considering my artistic work, find more people and communities than I already have, grow in the communities I’m already in, and collaborate with people to combat issues of identity and assimilation. I want to combat these issues personally, as an artist, but also everyone can work together with empathy and understanding to combat them.

HYOHEE: That's awesome, and I think this is a great place to wrap up. Thank you both for your insight!

About the Artists

Kyra Young is a 19-year-old Chicago native, artist, and musician. Through networking, she has become inspired by fellow creatives in the city's fashion, tattoo, and sneakerhead communities.

The artist duo “Double L” consists of Leah Malan and Lola Chalmers-Dibbell, two art lovers from Chicago who enjoy creating art of all forms.

21Minus takes place next Saturday, June 16.