If, as Pablo Picasso said, “Painting is just another way of keeping a diary,” then the upcoming exhibit at the UCF Art Gallery reflects the turbulent and optimistic pages from the lives of some young artists – children who are homeless, living in foster care or in other disadvantaged situations.
“Hearts from the Arts,” the gallery’s first outreach exhibit of this kind, is a joint project with ArtWorks, an Orlando organization that strives to build the self-esteem of children in need. Many of the works are accompanied by biographical notes from the artists:
My picture is about my life. It shows that everywhere around me there are a bunch of storms. The storms represent all the hardships in my life. The sea is my refuge. – Kyle, 17
The exhibit, which opens Thursday, Sept. 6, features acrylics, ceramics, watercolor, collage, photography and other media created by 40 artists ages 6 to 17.
The collaboration resulted from a conversation between gallery director Paul Lartonoix, interim director of UCF’s School of Visual Arts and Design, and Renée Schneider, founder of ArtWorks, which is a project of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Orlando.
Schneider, an artist and art teacher, has shared the joy of creating with hundreds of children since ArtWorks started nearly a decade ago.
“She is dedicated to them,” said Diane Daugherty, UCF Art Gallery coordinator. “I love that she can get them to open up. She gets them connected.”
My portrait represents before and after. The left side is red and shows the significant pain caused by the abuse and misery that ripped my life apart. The right side represents happiness…Even though I feel myself becoming happier, the knife on the left side represents that there is still an open wound in my heart that has not healed. – Dorie, 15
The gallery exhibits work from local and national artists, but this is the first children’s outreach exhibit to be brought in, and organizers hope it serves as a catalyst for culture and community engagement.
The Central Florida children who created the pieces are cared for through Great Oaks Village, Orlando Union Rescue Mission, Edgewood Children’s Ranch, Howard Phillips Center for Children & Families, and the Foundation for Foster Children.
This is the first time their works have been shown at the same exhibit – and Schneider said showing the pieces at a university campus is a wonderful opportunity for both the children and viewers.
Many of the children live in generational poverty, and having the show at UCF may plant the idea for them to one day go to college. “This is a way for them to say, ‘If I had the talent, this could be a career path for me,’” she said.
“Plus, this is good for their self-esteem to be at an official gallery and it gives them an opportunity to interact with people in the community. When you’re homeless and in foster care, you’re pretty isolated. For those who come and meet the kids, it’s something they weren’t expecting. It makes the statistics personal now because they know a child in this situation and it isn’t something abstract.”
The clouds in my portrait represent different parts of my life. The cloud glowing at the bottom represents God and how he is changing me. The dark cloud on the left represents my old life. It is being pushed aside and a rainbow has appeared. – Latisha, 13
Photos in the exhibit were the result of some ArtWorks’ children working with Kayla Hernandez, a photographer and the gallery’s permanent collections manager.
Hernandez worked with six girls from Great Oaks Village, showing them how to express themselves through photography.
“I spent four weeks showing the girls how to use their cameras to translate ideas and perspective of their everyday life,” Hernandez said.
“Every week they would present their newest photo and talk about why they took the pictures.”
I made my body out of Tetris pieces to represent that there are many things about you that make up who you are. However, people often judge you on just one or two of those things. – Chris, 16
Hearts from the Arts will have a free opening-night reception 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 6, and the exhibit will be on display 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays through Oct. 5. The gallery is in the Visual Arts Building.
For additional details about the gallery and show, go to http://gallery.cah.ucf.edu/.