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The Art Effect Adds Color to the Valley’s Black Lives Matter Movement

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Photos by The Art Effect

The Art Effect collaborates with Arts Mid-Hudson and Hudson River Housing on a moving sculpture garden designed by youth artists in Poughkeepsie.

Black Lives Matter murals have been coming onto the scene all over the Hudson Valley in colorful and moving ways. Nyack and Kingston have paid tribute to the BLM movement in the Hudson Valley with art installments dedicated to the lives lost to racial injustices and designed to help people come together across the Hudson Valley. Now, in Dutchess County, The Art Effect in Poughkeepsie joins the conversation.

In a student-led initiative, The Art Effect partners with Arts Mid-Hudson, Hudson River Housing, and the “I am Citizen” Project to create a series of “Place Making” sculptures that aid in sparking conversations surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement. Community youth artists Jadeen Simpson, Zion Reid, Karla Zarate, Jakeliyah Faircloth, and Julissa Aguliar led five teams of artists to execute this project and create five unique wooden flower boxes that represent a stronger Queen City. These flower boxes offer different interpretations of strength, community, and resilience surrounding the conversations relating to #BlackLivesMatter in the City of Poughkeepsie.

This project was inspired by the Maurice Gordon Memorial Garden and developed into a project that responds to gentrification and racial injustices in the Hudson Valley, says David Wong, Community Art and Design Program Manager at The Art Effect. “We knew that we wanted to do something about Poughkeepsie and to spark conversation,” he explains.

Working within their groups, each lead artist brainstormed with their teammates to make a sketch of their idea to then pitch to Wong and gain his creative input. By completing projects as a team at The Art Effect, teenagers learn how to efficiently communicate with their peers while also gaining woodworking skills.

“I was just there to make sure the kids didn’t get hurt, and that they got paid,” Wong admits.

Arts Mid-Hudson and Hudson River Housing reached out to The Art Effect in order to collaborate with artists in Poughkeepsie. In collaboration with the “I am Citizen” Project, which donated plants for the garden, the collective tapped into the talents of The Art Effect’s MADLab youth workforce for its student-crafted “Place Making” sculptures.

Through this initiative, kids learn how to creatively channel their emotions and bring awareness of social injustices to the Hudson Valley.

Developed from a simple concept, Wong says, “the art on the sides of the planters have personal symbols representing justice, memory, loss, and strength…there’s this kind of hidden layer of black power and strength.” Some of the artwork includes a scale of justice, a sculpture symbolizing the Queen City of Poughkeepsie using the Pan-African colors of red, black, and green, and a metal tree symbolizing growth.

Sculpture prototype

With an unveiling on October 22, the memorial garden on Rose Street debuts in dedication to Maurice Gordon, a Poughkeepsie resident and victim of police brutality. This art instillation is open for public viewing in Dutchess County.

“I really wish that this was around when I was younger, so I’m glad to see it happen now,” Wong says.

The Art Effect Director of Education Mary Ellen Iatropoulos adds, “The Art Effect continues to empower young people to develop their creative voiced to shape their futures and bring about a positive social change.”

Coming soon: The Art Effect’s Hudson Valley Regional Portfolio Day returns for its 19th year this November 2-5. Students can check out college programs during 15-minute time slots at the virtual event.