"It is important for all artists to be able to share their work with the public, but for youth I believe it is even more critical, as they get the opportunity to be heard creatively and have their work celebrated," said Lisa Smith, program coordinator for Clackamas County's Youth Arts for Change.
To celebrate Pride Month during June, YAC partnered with The Living Room to showcase the work of 10 young artists through Aug. 1 at Clackamas County's Public Services Building in Oregon City.
Both organizations work with youth in the county. YAC "uses the arts as a catalyst to open doors for vulnerable and underserved youth, promoting positive change and forging constructive connections between youth and their community," Smith said.
The Living Room "is a safe haven for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and questioning youth ages 14 to 20 in Clackamas County," said Aryn Zanca, Living Room program coordinator.
YAC, working with project partners, provides programs throughout the year to teens and preteens.
"In addition, YAC also works outside these programs to provide and encourage Clackamas County youth with opportunities to share their creativity, such as the current exhibition," Smith said.
"We want the youth artists of The Living Room to see how important their work is to the community and encourage their continued involvement in the arts. We hope that this public exhibition will be a wonderful and exciting experience for them," Smith said.
As a program of the Clackamas County Arts Alliance, a not-for-profit organization, YAC is funded by the Oregon Arts Commission, private foundations and the county.
The Living Room
"The Living Room serves all of Clackamas County, so our location changes," noted Zanca, adding that there is a weekly drop-in in Oregon City and a monthly drop-in in Sandy.
Some of the program's major events, like alternative prom and the Gay Straight Alliance Summit, take place in Oregon City.
"But we regularly travel all over the county for school support, community outreach and events. As a peer-support, nonprofit organization, we're partially funded through Clackamas County, but we also pursue grants and donations," Zanca said.
The Living Room also helps to facilitate LGBTQQ+ youth leadership through its Youth Advisory Council and collaborations with student leaders, ongoing school support and community outreach.
"We are always exploring new collaborations with community partners to provide opportunities for youth, and identified The Living Room as a potential organization that we would like to engage," Smith said.
Kelly Blixhavn, board co-chair and program director at The Living Room, reached out to YAC at the beginning of the year to inquire about the CCAA Artist Exhibit Program's youth exhibition space in the County Public Services Building, as well as the potential for an opportunity for The Living Room to participate.
"As the Living Room has many talented and amazing youth it was a no-brainer that this would be a great fit, and we worked together to bring this exhibition to fruition to coincide with Pride celebrations," Smith added.
"We're so excited to be partnering with the Youth Arts for Change program. Our missions align wonderfully, and we are lucky to be able to work with such great folks," Zanca said.
"For this project, all the artists worked independently. So many of the youth we work with are incredibly talented, which I think comes across in the exhibition," Zanca said.
"The artists primarily worked with acrylic on canvas and various ink mediums on paper. We also have a youth who works in makeup and body paint who was able to showcase their art via photography," Zanca added.
The art exhibit represents a wide array of media, including painting, pencil, ink, charcoal and photography. Some of the works are for sale, and all proceeds will go to the artists, Smith said.
"The [YAC program] provided these artists the space to show their art in a public location. Besides the experience of participating in a public show, this exhibition will hopefully show these young LGBTQQ+ artists that their art, experiences and voices are important and valued in Clackamas County," Zanca said.
People should come see the show because "the work is incredible. It's also important for us as a community to support our youth in their endeavors, and we get the benefit of being exposed to their creative voices," Smith said.
Zanca added, "We hope people come see the exhibit and take a moment to think about what these young people are expressing. Not only are they talented artists, but they have creative visions worth celebrating."
Take pride in art
What: Youth Arts for Change, in partnership with The Living Room, presents the work of 10 young artists
When: Through Aug. 1
Where: Clackamas County's Public Services Building, 2051 Kaen Road, Oregon City