NVAM Out Loud sculpts! (With reflection by Natalia S.)

The teen council took their clay making skills to a whole new level by expressing themselves during a sculpture activity. Since this occurred around the same time as midterms, the lesson was left open-ended, allowing for the teens to create whatever was on their minds. Check out the results!

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Here’s a reflection by NVAM Out Loud member Natalia S.:

“I thought that the sculpture activity was pretty interesting. I was able to physically use my hands and fingers to mold something that appealed to me. At first, I really wasn’t so sure what I should make. I tried making a turtle but it was a bit of a dramatic choice for my first time sculpting and I wasn’t really sure how to go about making it. I kept rolling around the clay and practicing with it in my fingers and then BAM I decided to make corals. I love marine biology. My desire to learn more about the topic inspired me to create an oceanic creature. To add a little more texture and make it stand out, I decided to blend pink and yellow together to create a two toned coral sculpture. It actually turned out super cool! I can’t wait to see how it looks when it dries.”

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NVAM teens participate in Creative Community workshop with Maurice Costello

Last Saturday, veteran artist Maurice Costello led the workshop Unconventional Approaches to Painting where magazine pages were utilized as studies in tone and shading. By using only black, dark grey, light grey, and white acrylic paint, participants colored over portions of the magazine page that matched the tonal value. The results were fascinating! Below are images of the NVAM teen council showing off their work. It seemed like once the teens got the hang of the activity, they used the parameters of the assignment to focus on brushwork and demonstrated the experimentation that can occur when placed in an art making situation with boundaries.

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To find out more about Maurice Costello’s work, visit http://mauricestudios.com/artwork1.html

Teen council makes awesome tote bags for After School Matters store!

After learning about stencil street art, the NVAM teen council made stencils and applied them to canvas tote bags that will be sold in the After School Matters storefront on 66 E. Randolph St. All proceeds go directly back into the After School Matters program fund, so the next time you find yourself near Millennium Park swing by the ASM store and support Chicago’s teens!

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NVAM Out Loud reacts to 100 Faces of War Experience

The National Veterans Art Museum (NVAM) teen council completed an activity where they learned how a shared experience can produce multiple perspectives. Each teen was tasked to find three veterans who had different attitudes concerning their service in Iraq and/or Afghanistan. The experience of the combat veterans was grouped into three categories: positive experience, negative experience, and in-between/unsure. The teens discovered that it was possible for a veteran to have conflicting perspectives when remembering his or her service and that a shared experience as complicated as war never has a straight forward answer. In this video the teens present their findings in front of a veteran’s portrait of their choosing.

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NVAM Teen Council visits the National Museum of Mexican Art

Last Saturday the NVAM Teen Council went on a field trip to Pilsen and visited the National Museum of Mexican Art. We viewed two exhibitions, Nuestras Historias and Dos Experiencias, Una Identidad, since the focus on identity corresponds with the theme of our upcoming Spring Showcase. After being greeted by the friendly staff, we split into two groups and toured Nuestras Historias. Drawing on the museum’s permanent collection, the exhibit displayed diverse stories of Mexican identity in North America. It was great observing the teens who come from a Mexican background share their experiences with those who were encountering the culture for the first time. We spent a large amount of time in the final gallery showcasing local artists, investigating the motivations behind color choice in Oscar Moya’s Blue Collar/Cuello Azul (2000) or the feeling of nostalgia in The Posadas/Las Posadas (2000) by Carmen Lomas Garza.

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Next door was an intimate showcase of prints by René Arceo, Mexican-born art educator, lecturer and printmaker. It was a great follow up to Nuestras Historias, since he is based in Chicago and is art teacher in a CPS school. Arceo works primarily with print medium of linocuts and his art was organized by the themes of spirituality, portraiture, and indigenous. The teen council responded positively and found familiar elements in Arceo’s work based on their experience in the printmaking workshop with Eric Garcia last February. Of particular help was the decision to display the physical linocut; I found this to be a particularly useful education tool when exploring the artistic process with the teen council. It was during this time the teens began to voice their reactions to the museum and its collection. Some students were amazed at the rich culture and history of Mexican and Mexican-American populations and some who were Mexican realized that there was so much to learn about themselves and where they come from.

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We wrapped up the afternoon by having a picnic in Harrison Park with a feast of pupusas, tortas, tacos and aguas frescas. With the smell of elotes in the air and families out enjoying the weekend, it was a lovely day spent with the teen council. Right before hopping on our school bus, we swung by Hector Duarte’s iconic home for a quick impromptu lesson on public art.

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NVAM Teen Council create self-portraits based on work by Maurice Costello

On March 17, veteran artist Maurice Costello led the teens in an art making activity where they transformed a high contrast selfie into a larger self-portrait. The teens began by taking selfies with a black and white filter which was then enlarged and projected onto the wall of the NVAM Out Loud workspace. Using a technique similar to what Maurice Costello does with his self-portraits, the teens traced an outline of their faces and decided how they would represent themselves using color, shading, and overall design. The resulting self-portraits were a wonderful reflection of the diverse talents and perspectives each teen brings to his or her work.

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The teen council self-portraits will be on display during Maurice Costello’s Creative Community workshop on April 18th.


Check, one, two! MC workshop with Mel L.

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On Saturday February 28th, veteran artist Mel L. conducted a free workshop where he taught basic rhyming skills and writing techniques. The NVAM teen council was in full attendance along with some fellow veterans. To get things started, Mel had the whole group engaged in exercises that activated the abdomen which helped with our enunciation. We then did a stream of consciousness writing activity to generate ideas for our rhymes. After refining our thoughts through a cappella writing, Mel played some beats and we adapted our rhymes to become amateur hip hop artists!

The teen council had some questions for Mel and he ever so graciously replied:

How can I improve my graffiti skills?
Practice, practice, practice. Figure out the best way for you to hold the can to get the results you want.

What inspired your technique for your style in graffiti?

I was inspired by the culture. I remember watch old Hip Hop videos and movies back in the day, like Wild Style, and wanting to be a painter. Because I was self taught (I didn’t really know any other graffiti writers in  my town) I would say my technique was inspired by what made me the person I was/am today.

What is the name of your crew?
The Microphone Misfitz

Do you like doing workshops?
I love it. Its a good feeling getting to work with people from so many different ages, cultures and backgrounds.  I get to create art while I’m teaching and I like building and feeding off of the people involved.Plus, its cool to know that something I’ve said or done may inspire the group of people to step up in the arts. 

What led you to pursuing teaching the youth?
My first job in education came from me being hired as an actor/interpreter at a local museum teaching classes about the exhibits. At the time I had just started my theater company and I was approached by someone who was working there who said I kinda looked like someone the museum wanted portray. I loved working there and since then I have grown to love education as much as the arts.

What inspired or led you to go into the music industry from acting?

I been singing all my life even though acting was my first love. I would sing all the time and even started break dancing and rapping as a kid at school dances. At a lot of my shows we would sing and have competitions to see who was best. When I was sophomore in high school when I was cast a musical, Fiddler on the Roof, when i figured that could do both. because Hip Hop allowed more freedom of speech to say what I felt, how I felt it and me growing up in and embracing the culture as a whole it just kinda took over. 
As a veteran, do you find a lot of inspiration from your time serving in the Marines?
Yes, it has influenced my life as a whole and I draw inspiration from my life in general. I did a lot of writing during my time in service. Plus it made making songs, like Ready for War, easier to write.

What inspires you?
My family, life, politics, comedy, silly things I see people do on the train, my students, education, things I’m passionate about, books (I read a lot esp. biographies and comic books), people.

Who is your favorite rapper?
My two favorite rappers (I’m a Misfit I can’t name just one) would be Scarface and E40. 

How do your words flow so naturally?
Practice, even the most naturally talented/gifted people have to work at it.

What do you do in your free time?

Hanging out with family, listening to music, and occasionally play video games(Madden, Batman, or war games the don’t remind me of personal experiences).

Is making music your career? Have you gone on tour before?

My career is a mix of arts and education that some people refer to as Edutainment. I make a living a Site Manager for an After School program as well as teaching and performing across the country. I have been blessed to apart of several tours over the years from Comic Con to The Cross State Connection Tours. I usually tour a couple times a year and since my evenings, weekends and sometimes summers are free it really helps.

Did you always like music or did you just pick up on it?

Always, from listening to the blues and in Mississippi with my grandfather, to listening to soul and funk with my mothers aunts and uncle, to picking up country music in the south, classical and jazz in the theatre and Hip Hop in the neighborhood. Music has always been with me.

How do you get yourself to focus on writing a song?

Its never the same. Sometimes I lock myself in a room with the music, a pen, and paper until I have what I want. Sometimes it just comes to me and I have to drop what I’m doing to get the thoughts on the paper. I do a lot of free writing when I’m writing songs as well.

What should I do to sound better?

Speak clearly and enunciate. Your voice is yours, play with it until you find one that you are comfortable with. The tone, inflection and intensity of my voice changes depending on my mood and what message I’m looking to get across. 

What should I do to flow when reading out loud?

The more you read over something the more comfortable you become with it so before you read it aloud in front of others read it to yourself a few times and if possible read it out loud to yourself a few times.
For more information about Mel’s work, visit http://themicrophonemisfitz.bandcamp.com/

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: 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.


The Things I Carry: Daryl

One thing that i carry in my back pack everyday is my comb. My comb is very important to me because I have hair that tangles very easily. Also because for some reason someone always feels the need to rub their fingers through my hair and it’s embarrassing when they have to struggle to get their fingers through it. So that’s why I carry my comb in my book bag everyday.

The Things I Carry: Adam

On Tuesday we dumped our school bags on the floor and picked out certain objects that we thought were important to us. Then we placed those objects on a blank piece of paper in an artistic fashion. After that was done we went to our peers piles and tried our best to recreate their piles in our sketch books. I thought it was pretty rad because I really never done anything like that before and I’d love to do something like it in the future.

The contents in the person’s bag that I chose to draw made them seem like they appreciate music because they had headphones. The contents that I had chosen to represent me would make someone think that I play music due to the sheet music I had in my bag. Something that I learned about my class mates had to be that some people had very similar items and some people had very different items. The items in their bags showed me exactly what type of person they are, and that was super tight.

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Teen Council goes to the Chicago History Museum!

What happens when you take 15 teens to the Chicago History Museum?

First of all– I was impressed by the connections and insight that the teens made in regards to engaging with history and their role in the results of important social political and cultural events that impacted our city as well as the country as a whole.

We spent time looking at photos in the Vivian Maier exhibition which captures the streets and people of Chicago in candid, everyday happenings.  These photos highlighted important historical events like the Democratic Convention of 1968 and the race riots following the assassination of Martin luther King Jr., but it also showcased the day to day moments that reveal the true life of the city.  Both themes were recognized and admired by the teens who could recognize neighborhoods and contemplate how these events affected the lives they are living today– both similar and different, complicated and commonplace.

This sentiment continued in our viewing of the Exhibition 1968 which showcases the overwhelming multitude of events and trends of the year that shaped the future of our country, still evident today. From these events, teens were asked to focus on one that really stood out or grabbed their attention. This event will be used as inspiration for an art project we will be working on in the coming weeks looking at identity, history and looking into the future. Additional questions included what did you learn today?  Who will you be in 50 years? What will you remember and what will have changed? to supplement generating ideas for a reflective art project.

Teen Council made a list of things they learned during their trip. Here are a few highlights:

> The largest population of young people were entering college and being drafted (baby boomers) a major drive of the energy of the 60s.

> If Robert Kennedy was not assassinated he would probably have been elected president.

> The first Miss Black America Pageant was held, giving black women a chance to role model and represent their beauty.

> Don’t put ketchup on a Chicago Style Hot Dog