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What is the Youth Activist Art Archive?

The best art asks questions.
No+Place+to+Call+Home+by+artist+Natalie+Lim+Cheatham+in+2020.+%28Courtesy+of+Natalie+Lim+Cheatham%29
“No Place to Call Home” by artist Natalie Lim Cheatham in 2020. (Courtesy of Natalie Lim Cheatham)

 

“Youth have always played a very, very important role in social change,” said artist and activist Beth Krensky.

This acknowledgment of the power of youth is part of what inspired Krensky, who is an art education professor and the area head of art teaching at the University of Utah. Under those roles, she worked with students to form the online Youth Activist Art Archive.

What is Activist Art?

“[Activist art is] art that is socially and civically engaged that’s in a place that is publicly accessible,” explained Sydney Porter Williams, a graduate student at the U in the Community-Based Art Education MFA program. Porter Williams was one of the first students to work with Krensky on the YAAA.

Krensky further explained this definition was first outlined by artist Nina Felshin in her 1994 book “But Is It Art? The Spirit of Art as Activism.”

“It encourages engagement so that you’re just not passively absorbing stuff,” Krensky said. “It’s an engaged process. And I prefer to call people participants rather than viewers of art for that reason.”

Why is activist art important? Krensky and Porter Williams both pointed to artists’ ability to create visions of the future and invoke emotions in people. 

“They transcend what we see now, and they give a vision for the future, and what it could be,” Porter Williams explained. She talked about art that depicts atrocities happening around the world, which can inspire emotions like anger and might even lead to someone taking action. 

“Before we act, we have to envision — and for me, that’s the most important aspect of art,” Krensky said. 

Youth Activist Art Archive

“[It’s] a place for people to go — not only to see the incredible art that young people are capable of, but also to get resources so they could facilitate projects like this in their own communities,” Krensky described. 

If you visit the YAAA’s webpage, art.utah.edu/yaaa/, you’ll be met with several tabs.

One of these tabs leads you to a submission page, where any artist 26 or younger (the age range the archive defines as “youth”) can submit their art to be reviewed by the YAAA team and potentially featured in the archive. Krensky and Porter Williams both strongly encourage anyone interested to submit their work to the site.

Other tabs will lead to you a list of resources, one for facilitators and one for artists.

“The goal was to have anyone who wanted to do this kind of work, either themselves or to facilitate it, have this resource available to them,” Krensky said. 

These resources also help facilitate the engagement and action that the archive hopes to inspire, said Porter Williams. The resources can help anyone interested in this work get started. 

The resources include links to books, important activist artists’ work and organizations for artists to check out. Links to books, organizations and activist artists’ work are included in the resources for facilitators, in addition to educational tools and lesson plans. 

Of course, there’s also a tab leading to the archive itself.

The Archive

All sorts of art forms exist in the archive, from sculptures and paintings to performances. 

“I’m really interested in the teapot piece,” Porter Williams said. “Teapot” is composed of a ceramic teapot with holes in the body, a firearm serving as the pot’s handle and three ceramic cups with holes in the middle. The piece was made by Maggie Adams in 2022 and serves as a commentary on gun violence.

“It’s very visceral for me it’s like, ‘Oh, like I can’t put anything in that without it spilling out,’ and it’s this loss and the spilling out of of life,” Porter Williams said. 

Krensky pointed out another piece called “No Place to Call Home” created by Natalie Lim Cheatham in 2020.

“No Place to Call Home represents the clash of the artist’s Korean and American identities. It depicts a Korean hanbok, a traditional cultural dress, made of American flags. As an Korean-American, or any mixed race, you can often feel out of place in both cultures,” reads the piece’s description.

The best art asks questions, Krensky said, and this piece serves as a sort of entry point to greater conversations or ideas about immigration and identity. 

The archive currently features 13 works of activist art, but Krensky and Porter Williams are both hoping to see it grow. 

“I’d love to see it being a living website,” Porter Williams explained, “where people can take inspiration from the work in the archive and use the resources provided with the archive to make their own, and maybe even submit to the YAAA.”

 

[email protected]

@JosiHinds

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About the Contributor
Josi Hinds, Arts Writer
Josi Hinds is in her second year at the University of Utah, majoring in communications with a minor in both gender studies and Spanish (for now). She grew up in Bozeman, Montana, and moved to Salt Lake in hopes of venturing out in the world and meeting new people. She joined the Chronicle out of a love for writing and meeting new people, and she hopes to share stories that broaden both her and others' perspective on the world

Comments (1)

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    John HedbergFeb 10, 2024 at 12:56 pm

    ANOTHER article promoting Activism, despite the fact that innocent people were killed for no reason by “activists” during the last round in 20/21. (#DavidDorn: Say His Name~!)

    Just To Reiterate, since The Chronic keeps posting one side of the same issues over and over and over again 😂😂😂:

    The Marxist-Equity missionaries at the Chronic are evidently gullible enough not to know that Marxists go after every new generation, trying to convince them that their culture is “systematically racist/sexist/classist/dunce-phobic”, and whatever other labels may work in a particular culture which enables them to convince naive young people that “we’re the only ones who understand” and “we’re the only ones who have compassion” and “justice now!” while they perpetuate the opposite.

    Every generation thinks that they’re the first to discover these themes, and every new generation learns the hard way that the easiest path to power for authoritarian despots is to convince young people that somehow, all the older people in every society going back thousands of years somehow missed the memo! Somehow, all those millions of other people just like us simply didn’t get it! 😂 We’re the ONLY ONES WHO UNDERSTAND that the propaganda we’re being fed is entirely new, and entirely trustworthy, because we’re so young! Naturally, only we can see through the “systems of oppression” to act for compassion and justice, which traditionally means allowing the Marxists to get just enough power so they can stop anyone else from acting democratically to get them out, at which point they turn on the dupes (students) who helped them gain power and eradicate them, since this is the only group that still has enough power to stop the Marxists at that point.

    Catch an interview with anyone who survived the Cultural Revolution in CCP China (Lily Tang?), where the student Red Guards were used to eradicate the university professors and other dupes who helped Mao get into power, and once the Red Guard youth were done eradicating the “useful idiots”, the Red Guard youth were either gotten rid of, or they were exiled into the desert for the next 20 years while “The Party” consolidated total control.

    Always, always, the new generation thinks that they’re the first and only ones who see through the “oppression”, and these dupes are always the last ones to realize that their own friends and family are now being wiped out to keep the genocidal psychopaths they launched into power from being challenged, since these same dupes are now the only ones left with the power to depose. This was the story in Soviet Europe, CCP China, North Korea, Venezuela, Rwanda, Cambodia, and so many other societies leading up to some of the worst genocides in human history. This is what my liberal public school teachers in Harvard country taught us about the real oppressors, after they and their families escaped some of the worst Marxist propaganda factories and slaughterhouses in history.

    Are you just another dupe in a long line of dupes who think of yourself as “progressive”, flattered by “a new understanding”, “enlightened”, when the truth is that everyone except you already knows about Marxist capture of societies through propaganda, through fake pleas for compassion which they never actually practice, and by convincing the most naive that everything they’ve been taught by thousands of years of progressive learning is somehow a lie that only they know about… except it’s actually the other way around?

    Is your “trustworthy” anonymously funded news source lying to you, and the only question is whether you’re going to continue willingly being a dupe, or whether you’re going to start listening to real accounts of history that show compassion is never about rage, that hate is never justified, but that life is full of unavoidable suffering and challenges and always has been, and only genuine Love can make all of this we go through together worthwhile?

    Grow a little, show a gram of humility and scientific inquiry, and have genuine empathy for all your neighbors, no matter what false narratives you’re being fed, then get back to the rest of us, and you’ll finally find your safe space: your family. We’re all your family. All of us.

    Wake up! Your algorithm has been spiked with poison (have you never heard of Jim Jones?), and if you don’t wake up quick, you may be dead before the antidote finds you, along with everyone you care about, because that’s the way Marxism shows its ultimate compassion: they show compassion by killing everyone who can still feel anything they might find threatening, and they find everything a threat, especially Love.

    Kind Regards, with that same Love,

    Reply