Hacking the City 4 Good: In memory of…

In memory of…

NVAM Teen Council Presents: In memory of…

In memory of…” is a collection of artwork created by the National Veterans Art Museum Teen Council. We were inspired by two painting series by Chicago-based U.S. Navy Veteran and artist, George Klauba. The messages of communication, memory, and shared humanity through the veteran experience inspired us to create “In memory of..”.

“The stories I heard seared my memory and burned into imagination. I would wake up in the middle of the night to pull a box of souvenirs from under my bed and take them to the bedroom window to touch them in the moonlight. My mind traced their paths, imagining the men that owned them and what had happened.”

-George Klauba

In his paintings that are comprised of collaged images, Klauba reveals the influences of his experience of growing up during World War II and being in the Navy on a shakedown cruise off Cuba right before the Cuban Revolution. We used a similar art style of acrylic paint on panel, and collaged multiple images to create a single painting of our own experiences. Each of us took caution into expressing the memories that we cherish, the memories that we bested, or the memories that will come in the future.


Safe Ideal
Michael Gonzalez, 16

Safe Ideal is a poem I wrote inspired by my high school experience. I had high hopes and expectations based on the stories from my older siblings. I planned on learning from the mistakes they made academically and in developing relationships. Unfortunately I was rejected several times. I was disappointed and felt out of place and wondered how others could do it. Purple represents my young arrogance in the beginning of high school. Red is the developing of my love interest and how it transitions darker shade of red, which represents frustration on being single. Green is my hope that everything to work out. I wanted to believe I could still find someone. Blue is my enlightenment; I realized that love should wait. I still have my academics to be proud of. Grey is the results of my actions. Although I still would like to be in a relationship with someone, I felt it would be safe to forget about it. The colors going towards the center represent me. These experiences and emotions are what make me a person today. Along with learning the mistakes of my siblings, I have also learned from my mistakes.


Petals For Peace
Deasija Kelly, 15

In the painting, there is a lost ribbon that represents me. The ribbon starts off black. The black represents negativity. As time goes on, the ribbon lands on a flower that represents Jada. Jada is my daughter. When the ribbon lands on the flower, it begins to change colors. This is the ribbon exhaling negativity and inhaling peace. I chose this representation because when I am having a bad day Jada is the only person that can turn it around. Simply seeing her smile or hearing her laugh can make everything better. There is a change from negativity to peacefulness. The yellow flower represents how great my relationship with my mom is. The pink flower represents my relationship with my friends.

Jess Deer, 16

Statement: Fluffy white and blue clouds surround two elephants as they share a flower. “Un-weighted” depicts different perspectives. When looking at the canvas horizontally, the smaller elephant is giving the elephant on the side, the flower. When you look at it like a portrait, the one receiving the flower in the first perspective is now the one giving the flower. The colors convey the message of the importance of giving. Blue and purple compliment each other, with the neutral white and grey colors create a soothing, calm, feel good environment. The need to be open to receiving if you want to be giving. In a world full of selfishness and greed, we need to take a step back and check our morals. “Un-weighted” serves to remind us to keep the world go round, if you receive, give back.

The Mystery of Not Going Anywhere
Izzy Garza, 16

“The Mystery of Not Going Anywhere” is the story of my life on a canvas. It is an art piece that you do not where it is going but it is going somewhere somehow. The “mystery” is how these damaged or mistreated lines transform the images but they are still being held in place. It is an art piece that you do not know where it is going, but it is going somewhere. When someone looks at the artwork, their eyes follow the messy lines that connect everything together. The moon and the sun show comfort and the lotus flower in the upper left corner is related to where I live. i have many different houses but i feel safe in the lotus flower. The mystery of not going anywhere follows the chaos of what is going on in my life. In the painting there is a lot going on but the middle flower shows everything will be all right in the end. The mystery of not going anywhere started off just as mandalas and I wanted to make it into something bigger.

The Chain of Bricks
Daniel Calderon, 16

The title of my work is The Chain of Bricks because every brick tells a story of someone’s life. The chain holds my happiness inside it 04.17.16 that’s the date of when my life changed of struggling and not learning of the consequence. Someone really special in my life give me this chain I never take it off. Reminds me of all the good times I had with that special person. The bricks I made are painted to explain how my life was really dark place to change to a brighter place. The chain is in the middle because I want it to be noticeable like my strong heart, it can never be broken and like the bond I have with that special person will never be broken.

Before I Leave
Naye Torres, 16

The title of my art work is called Before I Leave because we might never know when we will see our last light in the middle of the night or a beautiful morning sunrise. We should appreciate both of them. The sun represents us by waking up in the morning and the moon sleeping at night. The sun brightens up our day and the moon lights up our night. Every day it’s a new day, light represents life and our sun brings life to this world by not leaving us in darkness. Enjoy every day and night to the fullest.

Piece By Piece
Grace Deer, 15

 In Piece By Piece each triangle represents a part of my life. The background color of each triangle is a pastel, to give off a pleasant vibe. Some triangles in “Piece By Piece” are not filled but empty, which represents the unknown part of my life that is yet to come. Starting from the middle, the triangle with many clocks symbolizes that there is never enough time in the world. At the bottom left the airplane and the tears falling portray the time when I was little, my grandparents went to China for vacation and at the time I cried. Since, I thought that they were never coming back. Bottom right, the two boxing gloves show how my little brother and I would always fight, even for the smallest thing. Lastly, is the one with a turtle and a spotlight illustrates the time when I almost lost my turtle in the backyard. There is one ear bud that breaks the boundaries, this portray the fact that music is my own little world and most of the time helps me forget about all of my stress. Over all this artwork and every single triangles makes up my life. Each moment/memories represents a part of me.

Un Viaje
Camila Cortez, 17

Old cars, bad food, tight streets, and benighted people was my life for fourteen years; and I was content with it, until I started high school. The red buildings are a representation of the closed minded and oppressive communities that I lived in throughout my childhood. I look back and realize how poisonous my simple life was. Books were the only way I had to look at different perspectives and create my own opinions. The soft greens and grays of the floating pages are associated with the comfort that reading gave me. I made the pages flying out of the book to show how discovering a new world would soon become a reality. The gray sky is another element of comfort that I added. The color gray pushes me forward to find warmth or create my own warmth – simulating the development of independence. This then leads to the mountains. The only memory I have of traveling is the image of mountains surrounding a highway. I was only three back then but the cold November air gave their figures a feeling that I can only describe today as something dominating yet inviting. Mountains are complex; I find their mysterious exteriors seductive and interesting. As I transition into my young adult life I hope to be introduced to scenery and cultures just as grand as a mountainous landscape. The absence of content on the pages is my way of expressing that I will be filling them up with more comforting and extravagant escapades. I hope that as I get older my experiences will mold me to become just as complex as a mountain.



Lisette Carteno, 16

Everything I wanted for this piece I was able to achieve. Everything I wanted for this piece I wasn’t able to achieve. The overall message consists of repressed thoughts and memories as well as the incapability to forget these thoughts. Each line that swirls in the background are inconsistent thoughts. Inconsistent in the sense that they come and go. The dark, black polaroid’s are the memories I wish I would forget and the people I wish I could forget. The playing cards, luck, faith, and all things that are inevitable. This is how I view life and how life is: A big game with ups and downs. The text, how everything is so nonchalant to me yet it all connects. “Je ne sais pas,” (French) means “I don’t know.” Lastly, black to make everything POP! New and old. Memories and messages. It is all repressed or wants to be repressed. Everything in life connects.

The Moment That’s Worth It
Kurt McReynolds,15

To Love and be loved is one of the life’s most blissful emotions. The feeling has been described by some as “ecstasy that one feels as if they are amongst the cosmos”. With this idea in mind, I used my paintbrush to bring forth a visual representation of one of the hardest emotions to describe. I thought of my partner Ean, the name brings forth instant memories and ideas. As I thought of Ean, my mind immediately sprung forward many connections I associate with our relationship; from memes such as Pepe the frog and that Boy, to his cat and dogs, to the sense of comfort and security I feel after an exhausting day before he walks home. Even though the action of hugging someone takes mere seconds, I reflect back to the euphoria he brings me, allowing myself to indulge within the memories for minutes to sometimes hours. It is there that I enjoy my time in my lover’s arms amongst our memories and the cosmos.

True Love
Kayla Sims, 16

My art piece called True Love, is a connection to my constant thoughts. Most of the time during my teenage years I wish to find “the one”. I have this wish of fast-forwarding my life into the next four years and already have met this goal of finding “True Love”. The clouds turn into my thought bubbles, implying that I am open with sharing my thoughts even though I keep most of thoughts secretive. I added the rainbows and the arts because those symbols represent love and happiness. I chose to put an illustration from myself at the bottom of the canvas because the focus is a little bit on me, but drifting into my thoughts and personality.

Dark Paradise
Chris Funez, 16

Dark Paradise represents how the world is seen as a peaceful paradise, but it is actually full of violence and hate. The peace sign around the world resembles how everyone wants world peace, but they don’t contribute to the peace. They cause more anger and violence, which is why I painted the peace sign black. I painted the Earth green for the land and blue for the water, but there are different shades to show that the world is not pure. The different shades of purple in the background represent how people want world peace, but they are surrounded by the negativity of other people and events happening world-over. Dark Paradise is important because it shows how concept of world peace is beautiful, but most people bring so much negativity that the thought is hopeless.

Happy Scooby
Johnathan Nickson, 16

I named this painting Happy Scooby because I used to watch a lot of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! As a kid and it brings back good memories. Scooby is always happy, besides the times he is scared with Shaggy. I used a lot of warm colors in the flowers, which represent a happy mood and cold colors to balance out the warm colors. The cold colors are any darker colors such as blue, purple, and black. I filled the background with flowers around Scooby to represent my love for nature and reference the 70s when the TV show first aired. Overall, I created this painting as a reminder of happiness.

Bottom Eye
Cxinnie Morris, 16

Bottom Eye is an illusion. It is meant to confuse the eye for a while and make you wonder. The use of the multiple colors such as cadmium red deep and cobalt blue are meant to contrast each other. Similar colors such as cadmium yellow deep and primary yellow defeat the contrasting colors by blending together. Ivory black builds the depth of every color because it can contrast both the warm and cold colors. Both eyes represent each other, they both see the same thing, but in a different light. One sees the brighter side of things while the other looks down to the darker side of things. Turn the painting sideways and you will see water falling and then turn it the other way you can see a sunset. The optical illusion relies on the balance of two elements together in order to be whole.

Rock Your Drop: Drop of Consciousness

The National Veterans Art Museum Teen Council was established in July 2014. Since then, teenage artists have come together to explore art-making, collaboration, the artist practice, and the veteran art movement as a whole. Working alongside artist mentors, the Teen Council members considered how their individual experiences living in Chicago fit into the larger context of promoting peace. The artwork featured includes individual and collaborative ideas in response to peacemaking using installation, painting, graffiti arts, drawing, and mixed media collage. There are specific references to Chicago, using symbols of the city: skyline and landmarks, the Chicago flag, flowing water in reference to the lake and river, cleansing, healing, and rebirth, hands reaching out towards peace, recent articles and text about gun violence, and flowers as symbols peace, tranquility, and purity. NVAM Teen Council uses art-making as an instigator of change and asks the question: How do we come together?


Reaching for Hope
Elias Gallegos & Juanita Rodriguez
Often when we see something shining into the water it gives us a sense of loss or something fading away. Lately, people have seemed to lost their sense of compassion or remorse for others and even their ability to grasp the significance of taking a life. The Drop of Consciousness represents those feelings, so using the necklace as a symbol of these values, I had it sinking as a way to show how we’ve lost these values. The hand reaching in to grab it was a way of showing that we can get these values back if we try to. I want to thank Juanita for helping me paint that water even when she was helping with another project. I also wanted to point out that the lack of skin color was mainly to show the lack of need to identify a specific race other that the human race.



Who You Are Today
Kate Pensamiento and Juanita Rodriguez
My project is addressing issues that relate to being a young adult today. There are many events that have a huge impact on an individual that can change their perspectives. Violent events leave a negative view in their eyes that can make them fear certain parts of the world.  No one should fear life but some people have no other option due to the violence happening around the world.


The Chicago Drop
Joseph Torres
My piece uses 3 separate but valuable symbols: the Chicago skyline, the Chicago flag and the tear/drop of consciousness.  Each individually has its own meaning but the way in which I am presenting them combines the flag with the tear/drop and uses the skyline in the background as a sense of “home.” The drop on the flag represents a universal sense of sympathy for the families of Chicago.  The tear being on the flag is also stating that as an individual we are small, but if we all come together for the sake of the city then we are strong and can overcome the struggles.  The skyline offers relief and harmony. The flag is a symbol of our loyalty to Chicago and being united for a better future.


Celestial Drop on Tragedy
Michelle Duran, Isabella Garza, Grace Deer, Camila Cortez, Jaliyah Lodygowski, Layla Bowling
Our project was made of many complex parts coming together into one unified message and work of art. In one part of this project, a textured gold canvas was covered with building and clouds at the bottom. This was done to represent the landscape in heaven. On a separate canvas, a lotus flower was placed within a body of blood-red water.  This symbolizes hope in the midst of violent conflict.  We considered the meaning of the lotus flower which includes: rebirth, purity and creation. These images are layered on top of one another to add emphasis to the many sections. Our use of 3D and @d was done in order to show that hope exists in the real world, not just in fairy tales.



Drops of Society
Christopher Lopez, Mya Gonzalez, Michael Gonzalez, Layla Bowling, Matthew Gorski
The inspiration for “drops of society” was shootings that have plagued the American society. We used paper machè to create three drops and made three yarn balls filled with articles of shootings that have happened throughout the U.S.  The reason why we made so many drops was to symbolize all the tears that people have cried over these tragedies.


The Rising Rose City
Sema’J Young
I originally got my idea from the internet when I saw a white rose. THe white rose had a black background, so I interpreted the rose as being pure. I took that idea and colored the rose a bit more than half way to say the red rose was becoming pure again. The tear drops falling from the rose causes the rose to lose color which makes it pure again, or it’s rebirth. The drops that land on the city are cleansing the city by making it innocent again. The city is rising from its bad aspects and from the ground. That is how I obtained THe Rising Rose City.

The Healing Flood
Alexis Yracheta
The message behind my watercolor painting is against gun violence. My painting is based on the handful of neighborhoods in Chicago that are facing gun violence everyday. The gray girl walking down the center of the painting represents an unidentifiable nationality, meaning that it can be anyone who can be hurt in these places. The “Drops of Consciousness” are falling from her hands and creating a flood at the bottom of the painting. The flood is then cleansing the neighborhoods from the gun violence. With more people joining the movement or contributing to stopping gun violence, we’ll all be able to cleanse every city from gun violence.


Conscience & Peace
Christopher Funez and Deasija Kelly
As a citizen in Chicago I worry about being safe in my neighborhood. We collaborated together and created a poster to voice our opinion and stop the violence. In the poster, Conscience & Peace, there are different colors, shapes, and sizes of hands reaching towards a tear drop. The hands represent the different citizen ages and genders. The teardrop represents consciousness. The message our piece is sending out is that the Chicago community should attempt to find the conscious to end violence and enforce peace.


FDG-Humboldt Park

Over the past two weeks NVAM Teen Council has had the time to work with the featured artist, Stuart Hall, on his ongoing body of work entitled “Fleurs De Guerre”. Stuart has been an Artist and Curator in the Chicago Arts Community for over four years and spent 2 weeks with our Teen Council sharing his art practice with us but also teaching us how to make art that re-appropriates and activates spaces around us.  Following our Fluers De Guerre project (which you can also read about on our blog) we developed an installation that would be set up in Humboldt Park.  We divided into 3 groups. Each group focused on a current event or issue that they felt passionately about and came up with a gesture that represented and symbolized this cause.

1–A figure with a watering can:

“The watering can represents water usage and natural resources.  The message of this piece is to represent the many ways people use water as well as the excessive use of water and the need for increased conservation of our natural resources.”- Erin A. and Chris F.


2– A figure holding signs over their face- each representing a different Social Media website

“We chose to make our silhouette represent social media because it is a big part of the world today. Also because a lot of people are letting it control who they are and how they behave.  Our silhouette is holding symbols from different social media sites that cover the face to change our opinion of who he/she is.” -Daryl G, Asia J and Keunte W.


3– 3 figures with their hands up showing innocence, out to the side showing vulnerability and one pointing its fingers like a gun representing Gun Violence

“My group did a silhouette about gun violence. These silhouettes show how guns are used to hurt many people. Cops are killing colored teens and kids while gangs are killing other kids their age and harmless bystanders.” – Keon C., Jalean, Sema’J Y., Jessica T, Jessica D, Kayla, and Chris L.


We cut out silhouettes of these gestures and in only 3 days made 6 cut outs and over 200 flowers to install in the park! It was a lot of fun to set up the art outside and to experience how people walking around the park repsonded to the art.  Most of the people we talked to really liked the work.  It was very windy so we learned a lot about how to fix problems on the spot!  The art work was left up in the park for 2 weeks.

Fluers de Guerre and the Ed Pashke Art Center– Art as Intervention! (by: Sema’J)


IMG_20150722_232639_resizedWe did a project with Stuart Hall that called for us to make little flowers and hand them out to people on the streets. On the flowers had little notes that strengthen people and gives them hope. A lot of faces were lit up when we gave them flowers , so the mission was completed. When we got to the Ed Paschke museum it was so cool. His art is different and has many colors. The significance in his realistic drawing look so amazing.  We also learned a lot about him and how he thought things out. Overall, the trip was awesome.

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Summer 2015– Teen Council!

This summer is off and running with a new set of expectations and challenges!

First– WHERE will Teen Council be taking place??!!  We have outgrown the space we used last year and the main gallery space needs to be utilized as, well, a gallery space!  So now what??  While visiting an empty store front where NVAM will be hosting the After School Matters Cross-Regional Art Exhibition on Aug 14 (save the date!) it occurred to me that this was a lot of unused space that would be AWESOME for filling with art in the making!  Thankfully, the building owner agreed! As he put it– if we never say yes to crazy ideas, where would we be?

The move in was…challenging…but now, with 2 weeks under our belt, the impact of this new space is starting to be felt!  New and developing art is on the walls in our open critique space, we have an inspiration wall and our social contract hung proudly for all to see and we are utilizing an old chalkboard wall to keep our schedule on display (so we never miss break time!).   The teens are moving past their initial shy phase and are making meaningful observations and making big plans for the rest of summer!  Starting next week, we begin a 2 week collaboration with veteran artist Stuart Hall. The potential is tremendous. I LOVE SUMMER TEEN COUNCIL!!!  (Stay Tuned!)

The Things I Carry: Natalia

This week, I was able to make the interesting realization that we are defined by the things we carry. We all carry different things, representing our differing personalities and likes. I ALWAYS carry a ton of paper with me just because I use so much of it throughout the day and for various assignments. Other times, I just like to jot down some thoughts on paper so that I can remember them or refer to them at a later time.

When I emptied my purse, the contents it carried included lots of loose change and coffee receipts. This is a representation of just how busy I am with my classes and other activities because I literally live off of caffeine every single day.

When my friend Ariana emptied her pockets I was able to see what she carried, which includes the following: An iPhone, headphones, a receipt, and a band pin. I was able to conclude that she loves music and that music is what defines her character.

The Things I Carry: Jaida

We all carry different things in our bags. We might not all have the same things but most of our things might relate to each other. We all like different things – the things in your bag describes who you are. For example, my lip stick shows that no matter where I go I will have it on me in the bag. In the Things They Carried, there are different items on display. For example, bullets – soldiers will always need their bullets or ammo. I noticed my lip stick was shaped like a bullet in The Things They Carried – objects that have the same shape but different uses.we also all had a conversation about how we feel safe her and we all have a good relationship with in the teen council.


The Things I Carry: Melissa

The object I chose was a grenade and it relates to the wallpaper on my phone of Luis Coronel because he is the bomb. I think the contents in my bag show that I don’t carry much and don’t need much to complete my day. The bag I looked at shows that the person is very organized because she had placed her objects in an organized way, for example all of her makeup was placed from largest to smallest. This lesson taught me that every teen is different. I got to see how the contents in our bag can define who we are.


The Things I Carry: Clarissa

In my group we chose a grenade. In war the grenade is a common weapon used. A common thing I use is my phone. My phone relates to this object because people are always blowing up my phone. In my picture I have my earphones and my phone. When I listen to music from my phone the bass would be exploding in my ears. Then you see my lip bomb. Who can’t live without lip bomb. Doing this task made me realize that our bags really can reflect who we are. So if your messy you probably don’t care and/or your lazy.


The Things I Carry: Quinn

My item was grenade I think it was very interesting how it had rust on it. It made me wonder how long it sat out after the time of explosion. The items at the NVAM are full of history and all have very interesting stories behind them and the process in making them. During my observation, two items that I felt were related were the grenade and my lighter because the lighter is used for fire but a lot less aggressive amount of fire and a much smaller amount of damage to the environment. When I looked around the room at my peers’ items I noticed people’s organization skills and I learned about their preferences in hygienic items.


The Things I Carry: Christopher

On Tuesday we all dumped our book bags and laid things out and I saw somethings in peoples book bags that i didn’t expect from some of them. Some people didn’t have much or they didn’t really have anything school related. I had some school related things, but I noticed a lot of similarities. I had my charger, headphones, and my phone and a lot of people had those things, too. I realized that we all may live different lives and have different things, but there was at least one similarity that we had within all of our things.

In addition, since I have my charger, it relates to other people because they need their charger due to emergency, perhaps if their phone was to die or their phone didn’t charge at all at night. no matter what we all need are chargers due to those things because anything could happen.


Cross Regional Art Exhibit hosted by NVAM

This is the cross regional photo and media art exhibit. In it were the following programs; NVAM OUT LOUD, Elevarte: Community Studio, Seeking the Hero Within: digital photography with Monica Cruz & Orlando Comacho, and digital photography graphic design with Peter Chechopoulos. We put this all together both separately and together. Each program made their pieces within their own program but when it came to the big day we all came together to make it happen.
In it were various pieces ranging from clay sculptures, woodblock photography, sketching, painting, digital artwork, videos, installations, and many more. We also had some art that we gave away…things like buttons or zines that were made to link with our final art pieces. We wanted other people to try comprehending and understanding our work the way that we see it. Therefore we all put together this art exhibit and made it open to the public so that they can see it our way. We feel the show was a great success because each piece told one of the artists stories, and were all appreciated by all of whom may have looked at our pieces because it brought them closer to understanding who we are.

Art Gallery: Amy H.

For my final project, I’m going to make a portrait collage that is made from pictures that symbolizes the memories of my past. To show how these events have created me to the person I am today. It would be a combination of painting, drawings, and magazines on a 16 x 20 canvas.

Interview with Ned and Walter: Amy H.

Ned seems different from other veterans. He seems very silly and positive compared to the other veterans we had so far. Ned chose to go into war instead of being drafted in. I think the fact that his family has always been in the military influenced him to go into the military also.  I think it was the fact that it was a choice made him more positive than other veterans. He was proud of doing his part for his country.

Walter was very different compared to Ned. He was more serious and has a more negative view on war. Walter told us how he tried to dispose of all the equipment he used from during the war. It wasn’t until later when he recovered a jacket he was honored with from battle that made him want to remember the times he had through the Holocaust and World War II. Walter was strong and war took much away from him

This is me showing what I have learned from meeting veterans.
This is me showing what I have learned from meeting veterans.

After School Matters at the NVAM

Summer 2014 ASM Art 1This summer, we were honored to work with 16 talented teens that came to us from throughout the city as a part of the After School Matters apprenticeship program.  For 6 weeks, the group worked in the museum learning about different approaches to making art and how to use these skills  to share narratives, memories and response to experience.
Teens in the program developed their own final projects after experimenting with art processes including digital photography, video production, graffiti, drawing, paintings and clay sculpture.  These art works and installations will be on display at NVAM on August 1 for the ASM Summer Regional Art Exhibition and at the Chicago Cultural Center on August 14th for the Chicago City of Learning Summer Showcase.

Week 1 Reflection: Amy H.

For the first week of this program, it has been very interesting and fun. The idea of learning about veterans and learning different art techniques has been fun. I like the fact that the program is taken place in a veterans museum. All the artifacts in the museum shows deep emotions and contains a story. I learned that I need to be more flexible. I keep tying back to the same basic layout and methods, but I feel like this program can help me on it. Its fun to collaborate with other people and see their ideas. I’m excited to see what else will come from this program.