|Some of the students involved in the GMU art project with Officer Kathleen O'Leary (center).|
Local residents are invited to a community dialogue and pop-up art exhibit on the theme “Youth Re-imagining Community” May 3 at the DarAl-Hijrah Islamic Center in Seven Corners.
The event, hosted by the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services (NCS), will give teens and adults an opportunity to have a dialogue about their vision for communities of the future and how art can be used to develop a vision and engage communities.
Officer Kathleen O’Leary the former community liaison officer at the Mason Police District and a former art student at GMU, helped facilitate the project, along with Norma Lopez, a community organizer with NCS, and Peter Huyn, a member of the Annandale Roundtable.
The high school students spent a day at GMU during the winter break in various art workshops. They learned about photography, met a music professor who turns musical vibrations into design, and were given art supply kits designed by GMU art students.
The youths will come together again this month during spring break for more workshops at GMU on art and poetry, says Lopez. They will meet with artist Mark Strandquist, who has done a lot of work with incarcerated youths, to talk about how art has been used to promote social justice in communities, then will meet at the Willston Multicultural Center in Seven Corners to explore the community and be inspired by their surroundings.
The students will continue their explorations of art and community at the GMU School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution’s retreat center in Lorton. More art sessions could take place this summer.
The students are not only learning about art, Lopez says, “they are also gaining an understanding of how art can be used for community change.”
The ultimate goal, she says, is to turn this initiative into a permanent program whereby GMU graduate students would regularly work with youths at local community centers. This effort would start with the three centers in the Annandale/Mason District area – the James Lee, Bailey’s Crossroads, and Willston centers – then expand to the rest of Fairfax County.
The art created by the 11 students will become part of a traveling exhibit that will help spur dialogues about a vision for community at upcoming public sessions, the first of which will be May 3. 6:30-8:30 p.m., at Dar Al-Hijrah. 3159 Row St., Falls Church. That event is free and includes a light dinner. To RSVP, contact Brittany Burns, 703-533-5701. The next one is expected to be at Stuart High School.
As the dialogue will center around “what kind of future do we want to leave our kids with?” Lopez says, it’s is important to have youths be a part of the discussion. “If you want them engaged, you’ve got to engage them.”