So my original plan for my teen time before mother’s day was to do some sort of a mother’s day type craft- I hadn’t made my mind up but I was thinking paper flowers (because I like them and can do varying degrees of difficulty). But then I found out that May is Keith haring’s birthday, and then I decided doing a gender normative craft was dumb, and what we really needed to do was a graffiti program!
Unlike my usual just-come-in-and-we’ll-do-some-stuff style, I made a power point presentation and lead a discussion. My introduction was about Keith Haring, how he started as an artist doing work in subway stations and then became world famous. I then used one of the MANY educational resources on his foundation’s website: a video with haring talking about his artwork in subway stations. I really liked this video because not only does he talk about his illegal artistic beginnings, but also he comments on other street artist’s calligraphy, and compares their use of form and lines to “fine” or “high” artist contemporaries.
Then I moved on to talk about local contemporary graffiti artists, I’m very lucky in Houston we have a thriving street art scene, and so I had a lot of materials to choose from. We looked at examples of different forms
Sticker and Wheat Paste:
And, you know, “other:”
We discussed each piece- what we saw, what it could mean, what we liked and didn’t. I have since taken part in Programming Librarian’s webinar: Engage! Teens, Art & Civic Participation (you can find all three archived here). The speaker in the 3rd webinar suggested that instead of choosing art and then figuring out what to talk about we should choose what kind of a conversation we want to have with youth, and then choose art that illustrates those themes.
Next we looked at style
I found one good example of culture jamming done by a local artist, he turned political candidate’s heads into ejaculating dicks- which I thought was great! But A) I’m fairly positive teens in my audience wouldn’t consent, B) Even if they all thought it was as hilarious as I did, I felt like I was already pushing it a little doing a graffiti program, maybe I should keep the art chosen PG. So these artists are unknown and I believe British.
And General Beautification:
(this first one is one of my favorite pieces I’ve seen in Houston yet)
So then we discussed which style we liked best, and why. And next we talked about when we’re stoked on graffiti and when we’re not. Stoked: most of the time. Not stoked: When it’s gang related, when it’s somewhere important, when it says something hateful. A few kids articulated (quite well) that there’s a difference between using the medium to express yourself and using the medium to do something stupid.
Next I wanted to talk about legal ramifications for getting caught, I brought up the City of Houston’s anti-graffiti website, and read the potential charges that one could face for getting caught. And then said that if those consequences were too much for any one of them, then they probably shouldn’t take part in illegal street art.
And either way they should Be Smart//Stay Safe:
And we finished by making stickers, stencils, and chalked on butcher paper that I put up in the library after: