A few years ago I did an art project that involved interviewing Max Hayes High School students. I made this connection through the art and shop teachers. Individually and as a group, I asked them to talk about what they liked and disliked about the city, what their ambitions were. The art room environment made them feel comfortable/open. They agreed and disagreed where it was safe and not safe to go. They questioned the logic of demolition as a solution to urban blight and discussed practical solutions to real problems. Underlying the volley of light-hearted banter and outright jokes ran a blade of insight regarding boundaries, race, politics, and human nature.
This footage was combined with other footage of Cleveland history, contemporary views, and the hum of a thriving city. Another high school teacher who experienced the installation quietly stated, “this is really important. No one listens to teenagers, but they know, they see it.”
A tangential story? Perhaps. The space that art creates does empower people- children, youth, adults- to act, to make, to effect change. Impact goes both ways. The results aren’t always immediately apparent. Rather, they unfold over time.