Young Artists Portraits at Cheeseboard Pizza

We all adore Cheeseboard Pizza, and beginning March 17th there will be one more reason to stop by Berkeley's beloved pizza joint. A collection of self-portraits inspired by the collage/ multi-media style of artist Romare Bearden will be exhibited in the beautifully renovated seating area where local jazz musicians casually crank out virtuoso sets.

The portraits demonstrate the artistic expertise of fifteen longtime participants in YAWS' Young Artists Studio class. This group of middle and high school students from Berkeley have been making art together every Monday afternoon since they were in the early years of elementary school. They have become their own artists' community and continue to express a sincere devotion to the practice of art making.

In the words of the young artists themselves:

"Art is a universal language. It's not stopped by borders or poverty. No translation is needed. I take the time to make art because everyone who sees it will carry away a little part of me that maybe no one else knows."     - Celia Jailer-Shannon, age 13, student at Martin Luther King Middle School.

"I make art for two reasons: one, it is a way to express yourself, and I believe everyone needs an outlet. The second reason is because art makes the world more interesting. The more, the better."   - Madison Williams, age 14, student at Berkeley High School.

"Art enables us to see the world through a new lens. It is in this different mindset that I am jolted from everyday life and can truly unwind mentally. Particularly in doing this self-portrait project, I was able to find out a lot about myself."      - Ines Chapela, age 17, student at Head Royce.

Photographs of the self-portraits will appear here soon. The show will be at Cheeseboard Pizza from March 17th through May 17th.


SWAY - Young Artists in Action

Every Monday afternoon, several middle and high school age students gather to draw, paint, sculpt, chat, laugh, listen to music, and ultimately, make compelling individual and collaborative art pieces. This weekly art
sojourn has been going on for nearly a decade - many of the Young Artists Studio students have been coming to the mural-covered building at Totland Park since they were toddlers themselves.

I always feel the (suffrage) movement is a sort of mosaic. Each of us puts in one little stone, and then you get a great mosaic at the end.
—Alice Paul

Most recently, these accomplished young artists worked together to create a series of portraits featuring six champions of the voting rights movement: Alice Paul, Sojourner Truth, Lucy Burns, Miguel Trujillo, Dora Lewis,and Frederick Douglas. The 24” x 36” portraits were inspired by the artistic style of Romare Bearden whose work exhibits a vibrant fusion of painting and collage. To create a visual theme for the series, each group of collaborators incorporated into their compositions copies of “The Voter’s Bill of Rights” (in Mandarin, Spanish, and English) along with some interpretation of the American flag. Photo-copied photographs provided a starting point, but soon, these portraits were grafted with new facial features as the students reinterpreted their subject’s image and historical significance. Dora Lewis, pictured below, has Frida Kahlo’s left eye and insects crawl among the flowers of her hat. This representation of Lewis, a voting rights activist who was arrested and beaten to unconsciousness for picketing before Woodrow Wilson’s White House, presents the squinting glance of a woman who suffered to be regarded as more than a moon-eyed society wife in a flowered hat, someone worthy of casting her vote as an American citizen.

The portrait series has been made into a poster set with captions encouraging citizens to vote on November 4th. You may see these posters on telephone poles and other public surfaces around town, courtesy of SWAY, a group of young guerilla artists committed to making the work of young artists visible and useful. The original portraits will be available at the YAWS auction be held as a part of the 10th Anniversary celebration planned for this spring.

Click here to view the slideshow of some of the artist's works.

Posters are available for sale at the YAWS studio or by contacting Jennifer Burke. Available for $5 each or $25 for the set. All proceeds go to support future SWAY projects and YAWS SCHOLARSHIP FUND.