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.

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 www.VisionQuilt.org

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


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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Hearts for Vets: Creative Community Workshop with Veteran Artist Eric Garcia


Our first creative community workshop, “Hearts for Vets,” where participants made prints for loved ones, or to be sent to Hines VA, was a huge success!(Pictured above): top left: students work hands on with the printing press.
top right: Workshop leader and veteran artist Eric Garcia gives a demo.
bottom center: prints and other artwork from the workshop being hand-delivered to Hines VA.


NVAM Teen Council had the opportunity to plan and host a workshop for visiting after school group BuildOn from Schurz High School down the street! Teen Council Members decided to create a workshop using moving collages inspired by Mac MacDervitt using images that represent the theme of “peace”. Check out the gallery below of the day including response and reflections from the BuildOn Teens!

The Art of Self-Definition: A Graffiti Arts Workshop with Mel L!

Mel is back at the National Veterans Art Museum as a part of the NVAM’s Creative Community workshop series and Chicago Artist Month! Mel L. is a hip hop artist with The Microphone Misfitz and Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq. Mel L. created “Evolution of War,” a graffiti mural installation, at the National Veterans Art Museum in 2011 and hosted “Identity and Representation,” a graffiti arts workshop in February 2014.

Why the Art of Self-Definition?

Most graffiti artists are self-taught. They came to the medium for self-expression, self-discovery, and the challenge and thrill of publicly expressing themselves as artists. We invite you to join us in this workshop and to claim your own identity as an artist. No prior experience needed; all artists must begin somewhere. Being an artist is a choice: come learn techniques of spray paint art and learn to see yourself as an artist.


Our Portage

NVAM Teen Council Members help with preparing for the Our Portage Celebration! Our Portage is a celebration of the 1 year anniversary of Portage by Ted Sitting Crow Garner. Portage is an aluminum sculpture by located on Cicero at Six Corners tributing the Native American Heritage of of the area. The teens set up a string of rope and colorful ribbons noting the pathway of a parade that passerbys could write positive messages on. Check out “AND SO IT BEGINS… NVAM TEEN COUNCIL WEEK 1!” for the NVAM Teen Council Members thoughts and reflections on the event!

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.

NVAM Out Loud Presents: 25 Memories (In Progress!)

NVAM Out Loud Interviews Walter Reed

NVAM Out Loud interviews Walter Reed, Holocaust Survivor and U.S. Army WWII Veteran about his life and experiences from escaping Poland and coming to the states to becoming a U.S. citizen to serve into the U.S. Check out the teens reflection on both interviews with Walter Reed and Ned Ricks in CONNECTIONS under voices.

From Drawing to Painting an Arts Workshop with Jerry Frech

July 12th, 2014 From Drawing to Painting an Arts Workshop with Jerry Frech
July 12th, 2014
Jerry Frech, Iraq War Veteran in the U.S. Air Force in Security Forces, taught a free workshop open to the public on how to move from drawing to painting at NVAM

Jerry says, “I have found that a lot of folks won’t paint because they don’t know where to start and would prefer to keep drawing. This workshop will help students learn how to ‘cross the bridge’ into painting.”