Two organizations collaborate for an important conversation through art

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Art can ignite many things in people, and two groups are proving that fact by coming together to bring change to Philadelphia.

Showcasing works of art created during months of remote virtual collaboration, Creative Resilient Youth (CRY) and The Young Artist Program (YAP) will host their joint exhibition ‘Roots Before Branches’ from June 3 to 27 down by the Waterfront at Cherry Street Pier. According to the release, ‘Roots Before Branches’ is the culminating event of The Young Futurist Studies Series facilitated by Ras Stanford of mental health cooperative Deep Space Mind 215 (DSM.215), who brought youth mental health art collective CRY and arts-based after school program YAP into close working relationships.

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The young artists spent a lot of time—more than half of a year to be exact—studying Afrofuturism, world-building, and traditions of youth artist activism in Stanford’s DSM.215 workshops. The results are both individual and collaborative pieces that are now being shown in the new exhibit. 

The soft launch for the exhibition kicked off on Thursday, and a main one is planned for this Friday, but there are more special events tied to ‘Roots Before Branches’ that visitors can markdown. On Sunday, June 20, Philadelphians can check out the YAP/CRY Art Market (with a youth resource fair) from noon to 5 p.m. Then on Sunday, June 27, those who are creatively curious can check out the Tie-Dye and Affirmation Letter Writing Workshop from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Both groups highlight focuses on Black, Brown, AAPI, and queer youth artists as a way to put the lens on their roles as change-makers in their communities. As the release states, the events of 2020 brought experiences of loss, grief, insecurity, and panic to their communities in Philadelphia. The Young Futurist Series is meant to offer youth a chance to support popular uprisings against long-standing issues of inequity by activating tools for world-building and the development of youth futurisms. 

What visitors can expect when they walk through the new exhibit is “multi-generational futures filled with wellness, safety, care, and joy, inviting conversations.” Those themes are explored in relation to finding shared languages with others and represent collective realities that put the microphone up to a younger crowd when it comes to social justice. 

“The Young Futurist Series has provided an opportunity for me to meet new like-minded youth and gain a new community,” said YAP youth artist Ivy-yon Jackson in a statement. “During the pandemic, which has interrupted my life as a young person, I’ve been able to make connections and new friendships. [Ras Stanford’s DSM.215] curriculum and world building has inspired me to make new artwork.”

Jackson also said ‘Roots Before Branches’ is an important opportunity to show artwork. “Having my art included in an exhibit viewed by the public will give me exposure and my art is very important to me. As a psych major and as a potential therapist, this program changed the way I think about mental health, human services, and has left me appreciating the value that youth add to the world.”

Both CRY and YAP put the focus on mental health in their own way. CRY is is a teen-led collective addressing youth mental health and intergenerational trauma through art-making, direct aid, podcasting, and other awareness and advocacy campaigns in Philadelphia and online, while YAP is a free arts-based after-school program that centers BIPOC & LGBTQ+ youth in the city of Philadelphia. 

CRY even released two podcast episodes this year under the name: “New Beginnings.” Those episodes, which are available now, touch on the subject of 2020 and what that year held in terms of mental health. The organization also had this to say: “CRY teen leaders want to ensure they have a deeply diverse and true representation of Philadelphia among the listeners. We think this is a great opportunity for Philly to come together as a city supporting the needs of young people.”

For more information on both organizations, follow CRY and YAP on Instagram and subscribe to ‘The New Normal’ podcast. For more information on the ‘Roots Before Branches’ exhibit, visit their event page on Facebook at facebook.com

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