San Antonio.- Entering SAY SÍ’s new exhibit, one is immediately struck by the diversity of projects. The artwork ranges from an enormous cardboard circle of people with different ethnicities to a project that solely relies on sign language. The scope of subject matter is more than appropriate as the “Skin We’re In: Race, Class, Gender” exhibit celebrates everyone’s personal identity, past and future.
The “Skin We’re In” marks the third annual stories seldom told project. Students select the topic to be highlighted every year by voting. Two years ago, they chose informal cities (or slums) and last year they chose morality and the golden rule. For the 2012 exhibit, students selected to highlight race, class, and gender.
After six weeks of collaboration and hard work, students displayed their masterpieces at the exhibit’s opening last week.
Annie, a high school student at SAY SÍ, explained the concept for her piece stemmed from a simple question she asked herself one day.
“What would it be like if gender roles were switched?”
Annie’s piece shows a picture of woman dressed in a man’s business suit and a man dressed in a woman’s 50’s style dress. The man and the woman are performing the “typical” chores of the other sex.
“It doesn’t have to be that different,” Annie said regarding.
Annie did more than take nice pictures – she creat4ed a provocative work of art that could make people reconsider gender stereotypes.
“Seeing people think about it is pretty cool,” Annie said.
One of the visual art instructors at SAY SÍ explained while many of the displays, such as Annie’s, reflect universal messages, other works delve into more personal stories.
“Factory” by Miranda Celeste and Covarrube Presley Polhamus (picture shown), dedicated to Miranda’s aunt, shows a female employee working in an automobile factory surrounded by smoke and machines.
When her aunt saw the painting, it brought tears to her eyes.
The mission of SAY SÍ is to provide “a foundation for our urban youth to grow and develop real world skills that will set them on the path to college,” according to their website. Often the organization uses the arts, such as photography and painting, as a tool to teach the students certain skills.
By teaching technical art skills, SAY SÍ imparts crucial life lessons, such as critical thinking, communication, and creativity. They also lay the framework that makes it possible for students to build confidence and discover their own passions.
The “Skin We’re In” exhibit reveals that SAY SÍ is celebrating more than race, class, and gender. It celebrates and nourishes artistic aspirations in an age where creative ambitions risk suppression.
In today’s world, with its strong focus on economic concerns, artistic careers tend to be pushed aside or stifled. But Gustav, an intern at SAY SÍ, explained that SAY SÍ strives to nourish creative pursuits and prepare students for artistic careers.
“It’s not about the money but doing what you love doing,” Gustav said when asked if he was nervous about his own future plans.
At SAY SÍ, people in different stages of life are drawn together by a commitment to art, as represented by Annie, Gustav, and Ashley – a high school student, a recent college graduate and a professional, respectively.
These three artists signify the transition from dabbling in art as a pastime to pursuing it as a career and SAY SÍ strives to be available every step of the way.
The organization offers several programs for middle school and high school students including Project SAY SÍ, Project WAM, Project MAS, Teatro ALAS and Project ABC.
For more information on these programs, visit www.saysi.org.