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Decisions. Decisions.

Members of Center for the Arts Evergreen’s Teen Council made many decisions recently as they created the gallery’s latest show “Hear Me.” They decided the theme, which 51 of the 106 submitted pieces would be in the show and who would get prizes.

Pretty hefty stuff for a group of teenagers.

“They did great. I am very impressed,” CAE Exhibits and Marketing Director Sara Miller said of the work the Evergreen and Conifer students did to create the show that gives young people a voice, especially as they have endured the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For many of our children,” CAE Executive Director Lisa Nierenberg wrote in the show’s catalog, “2020 provided the perfect storm for the challenges they were already facing. Although much of the artwork in this show focuses on isolation, frustration … the darkness, `Hear Me’ presents a call to action and a time for reflection.”

Members of the Teen Council — a newly formed group that gives area teens an outlet for visual arts — said it was difficult selecting the top submissions from 18 schools in the metro area. They said they selected artwork that spoke to them.

“Personally, every (piece) was so different with different mediums,” said Teen Council member Ella Howell, an Evergreen High School sophomore, “so it was hard to judge.”

She noted that the seven group members spent more than three hours going through the submissions to make decisions. Then on Jan. 20, they met in the gallery to decide where individual pieces of art would be displayed.

They tried organizing them by themes, colors and topics as they moved the paintings, drawings and photographs around the room, then stood back to decide which pieces would be focal points and which pieces would provide support. The 3-D art was placed on pedestals in the middle of the room.

Council members talked about the strong emotions and concepts the art pieces evoked and how teens’ typical issues were intensified during the pandemic. They wrote statements for the show catalog, explaining their views on the show:

“I was absolutely blown away by the amount of talent, thought and effort put into every single artwork,” Val Heidarsson, an Evergreen High School freshman, wrote. “Every artist expressed something that they felt strongly about, whether that be current worldwide events, things that they deal with in their personal lives, their feelings or emotions, or really anywhere in between.”

Conifer High School junior Samantha Ferguson wrote: “The process of bringing this show together was an inspiration — seeing all the ways other teens portrayed and expressed themselves.”

Creating a teen council

Miller said the idea for a Teen Council had been brewing for some time as a way for kids interested in the visual arts to expand their knowledge.

“There are extracurricular opportunities in music, sports and theater, but not really in the visual arts,” Miller said. “We started thinking about what’s a way we could expose kids to different careers in the arts and allow them to see that just within Evergreen we have fine artists, arts administrators and art therapists. We are lucky we have the gallery, so we can talk about the nitty-gritty of making a show happen.”

Though the Teen Council has only been operating a few months, Miller said she’s watching the relationships developing even though council members are in different grades and different schools.

“Arts can be really solitary, especially visual arts,” Miller said. “(The Teen Council) is also providing them with an opportunity to learn some leadership skills in the arts world.”