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Teens Take to the Streets–Summer of Unity 2017

The C Street Project met on June 21-23 at Youth In Arts to brainstorm, practice, design and render a design concept to paint in 12 x 14 feet on June 24 and 25 during the Italian Street Painting Marin Festival in downtown San Rafael. Mentor Artist Katy Bernheim and four students from San Rafael High School, Terra Linda High school, San Marin High School and Berkeley High School started with an overview and practice of charcoal and pastel rendering and shading techniques.

Since the Festival’s theme was The Summer of Love, celebrating 50 years since the iconic summer of 1967, we looked at images of artwork and art movements happening at that time. We noticed the bright colors, the flattened styles, and how poster making and other reproduction techniques influenced the artwork. We talked about what the artists of the 60s were responding to in their time, especially the anti-Vietnam War activism and the Civil Rights Movement, and how it was a time of change and upheaval, not unlike what is going on in the world today.

We wondered what would the Summer of Love 2017 look like? What sorts of things are the student artists thinking about, sensitive to, upset about? What would they protest or celebrate? Pride immediately came up, (it was Pride weekend, too), Black Lives Matter, and women’s rights. They talked about memes as common themes that most kids knew about. We discussed how iconography can be used to get a message across, and came up with the rainbow and Pride flag, and the Black Panthers’ (and others’) protest fist.

The final piece included a protest fist, an “I love you” hand, a “be cool” hand, a peace sign and a thumbs up sign, along with the Pride rainbow. The artists added the San Francisco skyline, representing where we live, a strong Pride movement, and where the summer of Love began. Lastly, they included a couple of memes: Dark Kermit, a symbol of minor revolt as the id personified, and Babadook, the adopted symbol of the LGBTQ community.

It was a truly collaborative piece. On Saturday morning we outlined the design in the gridded lines, then colored in, shaded, and blended the images with chalk. The artists learned the most effective way to apply chalk, to blend it and add details.

Our design was very well received, and the student artists were thrilled to work in public and to hear the feedback from onlookers. It was hot, it was frustrating at times, it was sometimes hard to control the chalk, and it was a challenge to negotiate how to influence the other artists’ techniques or approaches, but the student artists soldiered on. Ultimately they were very proud and very happy with the outcome of their work.

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