Throughout Milwaukee, local artists spread their talents and pulse out creative energy for the city to embrace, but some talents are still lesser known. Urban youth rarely receive credit for the astonishing pieces and projects they produce, but adolescent art should bot be underestimated.
Escuela Verde, an all green, project-based charter school located in the Menomonee Valley, holds some of the most inspiring artists, all eighteen or younger. Students there are encouraged to showcase their creative spirits and harvest them as any artist should, because their educators consistently remind them that yes, they are artists. It truly is an incredible thing to witness. Because the high school is project-based, students are able to set up projects that fulfill multiple areas of study while still using their artistic talents. A junior-standing student recently completed a project on mental illness, specifically depression, where he researched the illness in-depth to create an art piece to be hung in the school in order to express that those suffering from depression are not alone. These students are using art as a method to explore other areas of study, connect to their peers, and most importantly, connect to themselves.
School-based projects, however, were not enough for the eager artists chasing after their never-ending creative goals. Many desired to start an art club, which is exactly what they did. Even more incredible, the students run it themselves, holding bake sales when they hope to acquire new supplies, and researching new styles of art they have not yet encountered. Brian Tisdale, an employee coming in from Public Allies, and Advisor Bethany Vannest assist the group with anything they may need. Brian’s longterm goal he says is “to have the community recognize the talent of urban youth,” showing the city that adolescents can and do create valuable contributions to the Milwaukee art space. Their pieces are part of their voices, and they each have something so incredibly important to say. It is a priceless and lovely gift to know they are able to express their talents in a school setting.
Brian was a former student at Escuela Verde, and though he’s never taken an art class before, his drawings are absolutely breathtaking. When asked how he could have learned such a talent, he expresses he has been self-taught. “I want the students to know it’s okay to teach yourselves,” he says. “Like, it doesn’t matter if you learn it in a formal class or just by yourself online. This way, they can learn whenever, wherever they are. And that doesn’t make it any less quality. It’s all good art.” The students at Escuela Verde embrace this idea, using their phones and iPads to find inspiration, and further their ideas of what art can be.
Directly next door to Escuela Verde is the Urban Ecology Center, an organization which has been wonderfully influential in the students’ art goals by providing them a space to showcase their work. The UEC reserves a gallery space for students, where the community can witness for themselves the talent thriving within the city. Students such as Isabel Castro and Marysol Bermudes have multiple pieces hanging in the gallery, and take pride knowing they are true artists. Escuela Verde themselves are working towards hosting a community art gallery space during after-school hours, where not only the students, but other local artists can present their pieces and showcase their voices to the public.
Members of the art club agree that getting involved with the community is absolutely one of their main goals. Every Monday, a local organization visits Escuela Verde and discusses current issues going on within the community, such as rape, alcohol, and drug abuse. They aim to create murals around the city which address these tumultuous topics in order to raise awareness and use their artistic talents to speak to a larger audience.
The students at Escuela Verde are excited to show their community exactly what they have to offer in the local art scene. They work hard on their projects, and take personal pride in themselves and their work. Urban youth have so much to offer, especially when they are given a fair chance.
Written by Megan Gray
Edited by Bethany Price