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Davis, California

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Youth advocate change through media art

The UC Davis Art of Regional Change’s upcoming exhibit is giving youth a chance to express themselves and influence change in their surroundings.

Art of Regional Change is a new, joint initiative between UC Davis Humanities Institute and the Center of Regional Change. It uniquely brings together a range of scholars with students to work with community organizations on media arts projects.

Art of Regional Change teamed up with the West Sacramento Youth Resource Coalition (WSYRC) to create Youth Voices for Change – a social media project where about 15 urban teens collaborated with UC Davis scholars and artists to document and present the change youth hope for in their neighborhoods.

“A lot of the issues, concerns and daily lives of many of the people in West Sacramento are very different from those in Davis,” said Jesikah Maria Ross, media artist and director of Art of Regional Change. “I think it’s helpful for people in Davis to get a sense of who else is in their larger community.”

The exhibit, put together by the Richard L. Nelson Gallery, will be at the Walter A. Buehler Alumni and Visitors Center from Mar. 23 to June 20. It will showcase comic posters, a 30-page comic book and haikus with accompanying imagery.

The opening reception on Mar. 31 from 12 to 2 p.m. will also have community pictures the youth photographed on display. About 10 of the participating teens, WSYRC representatives and three University scholars will also be in attendance – landscape architecture associate professor Patsy Eubanks-Owens, Chicana/o studies associate professor Miroslava Chavez-Garcia and English assistant professor Michael Ziser.

Ross encourages individuals to attend the opening reception to meet those who were involved in Youth Voices for Change.

“You’ll get to meet these people, talk to them, hear from them and engage with them,” Ross said. “You’ll get to see how UC Davis can make a difference, not just in slogan, but on the ground.”

These art pieces are then intended to contribute to community development, Ross said.

The photos and videos that participating teens took were weaved into a Google Map in order to show decision-makers the places in the community the teens like, don’t like and would like to change.

“The overall sense from the youth was that the community needed their input,” said Yaminah Bailey, youth specialist of WSYRC. “A lot of the development that was happening around them was decided by adults.”

Youth Voices for Change aimed to increase the youth voice in West Sacramento areas. Many issues that the youth brought up are now gaining attention by community decision makers, Bailey said. The school district is implementing new safety regulations and the city is working on redeveloping parks. Youth Voices for Change discussed both of these issues.

“We’re starting to see the issues that [the youth] identified as common issues that people are also starting to work towards in the community,” Bailey said.

There’s a new wave of interest on the youth voice in the form of social media, said Amanda Perry, a graduate student in the community development group involved in Youth Voices for Change.

“This project is a great example of being on that cutting edge wave of using media as a new way to look at communities,” she said. “I think it makes people stand up and take more notice of the youth voice.”

After creating community media to advocate change, Art of Regional Change’s objective is to bring that community media to a public media forum, such as National Public Radio or the Public Broadcasting Service. Another venue is art galleries – hence the exhibit’s move into the Alumni Center.

“It’s the kind of place that people who are looking to learn, discover and experience different points of view through the arts go to,” Ross said.

Sacramento City Hall houses a second Youth Voices for Change exhibit, which will run until the end of May. It is complimentary to the Davis exhibit, offering a smaller range of pieces primarily comprised of photos and captions put together by the youth.

JANELLE BITKER can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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