Vision Quilt Showcase at NVAM: Creative Community YOUmedia

On September 24, NVAM welcomed Vision Quilt founder Cathy DeForest to the the museum to present and discuss the work made by teens from throughout the city of Chicago during the summer of 2016.  Teens from Woodson and back of the Yards YOUmedia branches as well as the NVAM Teen council and community members gathered to share resources, reflect on the work made by students and hold dialogue concerning the ongoing trend of increased gun violence in Chicago and around the country.

During the showcase, young artists spoke of their personal experiences with gun violence both directly and indirectly.  Students from IMPACT family center shared about the frequency and subsequent frustration with gun violence in their neighborhood while NVAM Teen Council member Camile was moved to tears when she described the empathy and fear she feels knowing that youth and families are being killed in her city through gun violence.

“How many here have been affected by gun violence?” asked Cathy DeForest

Along with youth, community advocates listened and shared inspiration for hope for the future.  A mother of a child killed by gun violence read a poem while others shared insight into community involvement opportunites to make an impact and create positive change.


After the presentation the panels will remain on display at NVAM through the end of the month and then be made available at rallies, community meetings and  public display.  Learn more at

From IMPACT Family Center:

It was an awesome #ConnectedLearning experience for IMPACT Family Center teens to participate in the Vision Quilt program with National Veterans Art Museum and YouMedia @ Chicago Public Library.
The used art in making panels for Vision Quilt to express themselves about #GunViolence.
Here is a photo essay.
Teens have many social/emotional issues and a voice about #ChicagoGunViolence.
Hive Chicago
MacArthur Foundation
Mozilla Foundation
Chicago Housing Authority
Chicago Department of Family and Support Services


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.


Working with Stuart Hall– reflection by Sema’J

Stuart is a fantastic person to work with. He’s so passionate about his work and what he does. He taught about appropriation and installation. I never had so much fun doing work before until I met Stuart. He’s easy to talk to and chill with because he is a chill person. At times, he can be a little too goofy but he’s still fun. I enjoyed being with Stuart. He has left a long lasting impact on NVAM Teen Council.

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.

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!)

Teen Council Spring Showcase: Art as Activism

Developing a sense of self and an understanding of one’s place in the world is a journey that teenagers are particularly attuned to. The Spring Showcase features work by NVAM Out Loud members prompted by the themes of identity and art as activism. Supplemented by the workshops of veteran artists Eric Garcia, Mel L., and Maurice Costello, the Spring program emphasizes the importance of identity-based artwork. The final art projects are a result of the teens’ reflections about what they value and how they can connect their individuality to an idea larger than themselves. We feel fortunate to have a teen council that represents a variety of backgrounds and as a result, brings rich and distinct perspectives into the process of finding yourself and what you stand for.


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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.


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: Skye

The bullet that I saw I believe was significant to the soldier because they may have done some regretful or sad things that affected them in a strong, negative, and distressing way. This is related to me and my constant wearing of hats…in which symbolizes my elementary school life and how I was bullied based on my physical features and personality. I wore hats because I felt that hats were a sort of protection for me and that connects to the bullet in the exhibit.


The Things I Carry: Roselle

These are the things that I carry to school on a daily basis. Being a teenager is very complicated because you have to juggle things such as school, different relationships with people that you know, and our parents. In my opinion, the things that I carry are extremely different in all ways possible compared to the exhibit, The Things They Carried. In that exhibit, soldiers carried things such as water canteens, bullets, and their food rations. While on the other hand, I carried things such as pencils, paper, an e-reader, and a laptop. The things that soldiers carried during their deployments were provisions that they needed in order to survive on a day-to-day basis in the middle of nowhere in a foreign land. I carry things that I need in order to do my homework and to study for upcoming classes and exams. This is a big difference.

I noticed that some of the things that I had in my backpack were similar to things that others had. For example, our school IDs were all somewhat similar because we all need our school IDs in order to get into our school. In my school, we are unable to get into the building without one. Since we all go to different schools all throughout the city, our IDs varies in colors, our picture quality is totally different, and the things that are part of our ID is different as well.

Veterans Arts On Air: Education Edition

In January, I was asked to be the guest on the NVAM CanTV show Veterans Arts On Air with host Melvin Lyons.  We spent the 20 minute show talking about the exciting work being made by NVAM Teen Council and upcoming events at the NVAM in 2015.   One of my favorite parts of the show takes place at minute marker 11:00 where I share a favorite experience meeting a veteran who is a part of the 100 Faces of War Experience Exhibition which opened on Veterans Day 2014 and is on display at the NVAM through May 2015. These interactions with the veterans and artists is part of what makes our museum unique and builds meaningful conversations about the role of art making in building community and intergenerational relationships between youth and veterans. Check it out!

PS– being on TV is exciting a fun– I highly recommend it!


Jessica T. Moving Collage

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After Mac MacDervitt and participating in activities with his interactive art collages, my fellow colleagues and I made our own moving collages. I based my collage off an original art work from the National Veterans Art Museum and combined the piece with three pictures of my favorite place/activity, my school, and aspects of my life. In the end, the pieces worked beautifully with one another and formed an interesting and creative composition. Instead of using wooden blocks or thin cardboard to base my collage on, I used a Styrofoam-like blocks that were transparent and brought light through my moving collage. The fact that they were light weight and playful was very helpful and related to my collage’s purpose of showing life being full of colors, activities, perspectives and forms of “obstacles” or how you could rearrange certain “blocks” of your life and create something better or more insightful and lively.

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Natalia S- Moving Collage

Wooden blocks, edited photograph, dictionary pages, mod podge.


I decided to use my own photograph of flowers and a typed Bible verse to describe something that’s important me and something I live by on a day to day basis. I used dictionary pages on the outer sides of the block to represent how important words are for me. I feel like society lives by words because we’re surrounded by them everywhere. I guess it all just depends on which words we choose to follow- everyone is different.

Moving Collage Milan J.


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This is my moving collage. It is a mixture of a piece from the NVAM permanent collection and a piece of art work made by me. I designed this on a whim and a thought about how I can express my artistic life through colors. It shows the way that it was so simple and monochromatic to the time currently when I accepted other things and mixed it in together.

Keon C. Moving Collage

I created this piece to show how although there is violence in the world, there is still hope. This piece is to create a type of peace and although things may look bad now, if you really think hard and believe in yourself, it can come out right. I used this collage to make a message to everyone that the government isn’t as honest as they say they are and safe. But we, as individuals and as a group, need to come together to get through this, to unite as one and this where my collage comes from. You can see that the different parts all come together to form as a big whole this is what i am trying to get at.


Cristian N. Meeting Mac MacDervitt

Meeting Mac MacDervitt was a wonderful experience to have. To find out that there is an art category that allows the viewer of the artwork to have full control of how they think and want the artwork to look is astonishing to me. I feel that connects the artist and the viewer in a way that the original piece of art can be seen and could be left alone, but at the same time the viewer may change the art to his or her liking. The picture below shows my look on this piece, my own imagination and creativity was put into this piece.  I enjoyed exploring this art and I will say I would like sometime in the future to try one day.

The Dark Side Of America

Christina L. Accordion Book




I made this art piece from paper, sharpies, and patterned paper.
I made this art piece from paper, sharpies, and patterned paper.

I strongly disagree with the saying “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” The reason why I made this particular art piece is because while the saying goes when “sticks and stones can break my bones”,  I personally think that “words can hurt the most.” This art piece is supposed to represent who I am, and includes my story, what I’ve been through throughout my life. Through the struggles, and hardships I think words still stick to me today. Although, I have forgiven the people, I have not really forgotten. In my personal opinion I would rather take a punch to the face, than rather have rumors spread about me. I choose to close this chapter in my life, and decide to build my self a new book, with a fresh start.