Work In Progress

By Charlie Diaz / Teen Council Member, Education Intern

Laguna Gloria, which houses the Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park, was warm and humid when participants started arriving, on May 6th. Friendly new faces from all over Austin, San Antonio, and Houston, gathered for breakfast and introductions. During check in and a game, we found some kindred spirits, and bonded over answering wacky questions, like what fruits we found to be representative of our personalities.

Once we had all warmed up to each other, we piled into a classroom to get more formally introduced. Each institution, with a pair of teens, and an educator or two, introduced themselves and the teen programming at their museum. I was blown away at what I heard. Teen curated exhibits, social justice theater troupes, and interactions with artists in residence. Every teen program introduced was more incredible than the next, and I was amazed at all of these art spaces I had never explored, so close to my home! Next, Betelhem Makonnen, an amazing artist, led us on the next phase of our journey. We were set free into the grounds, mirrors and frames in hand. We all wandered, taking pictures of ourselves, the landscape, and others through reflections in the mirrors, all the while playing with the idea of “true sight” and “vision”. When we reconvened to see everything we had taken, (Check out our Instagram @atxconvening) I was delighted to see the creative and beautiful ways that everyone had captured themselves. It truly was a new way to see Laguna Gloria, a space with which I am thoroughly acquainted, and a great way to get to know the other participants too.

After lunch, we headed to the Jones Center located downtown, the other location of the Contemporary Austin. After vehemently professing our love for one another, (Have you ever played “Honey, I Love You?”), we got down to business. We had timed discussions about the strengths and weaknesses of art institutions, all centering on how both teens and museums are works in progress, and how art spaces have impacted us personally. I loved hearing how different art spaces were helping teens and thinking about how we can do more. After that, the teens and adults split off to do separate reflections and came back together for the highlight of the day, Letterpressing. In an effort to be conscious of the messages we align ourselves with, we discussed phrases for our projects while we stood surrounded by an art piece, With Liberty and Justice for All (A Work In Progress) by Jim Hodges, who’s words so boldly proclaim “WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL”. We then all crafted phrases that we stood behind; “This is Art”, “Pride”, “Do the Work!”, “Feminism” and curiously, “Know Ham”.  We then printed the meticulously chosen phrases on totes, paper and handkerchiefs. Not too long later, we said our goodbyes, and parted ways, but I’m so grateful to have had this experience with these amazing unique people. I think the day was really productive and fun, and I think we all learned something about other museums, art, and ourselves.