Teen Interview #15

Jey Vargas, 17.


How did you get into art?

I’ve always been interested in art. It has always been a release for me, I guess, to explore myself. This kind of sounds like I’m bragging, but when people tell me, “Oh this is good, oh this is nice,” it kind of made me want to do it more. I realized as I got into advanced art programs, I was like, “Oh I want to do this for a living.” Like I want to pursue art for a career. [It] made me create more pieces and have a foundation for what I do.

Do you wish you had this opportunity when you first started doing art?

I think it would have been nice, but also I don’t think I was quite ready my sophomore year. I wasn’t that well-rounded as an artist. It was when I first started to get serious about art. At a young age I don’t think I would have been ready to put myself out there. I didn’t have enough pieces back then. I think where I am now is when I’m starting to look more into art interviews, putting myself into interviews. Now is when I’m ready, and now is when the opportunities are coming.

JEY
My heart belongs to you only

What are your plans for your career?

I do mostly paintings, but I actually want to do animation and character design as a career. So I want to pursue living in Los Angeles and trying to get in that little network. But I want to go to an art college, near Pasadena, in Los Angeles. It’s called Art Center, College for Design.

Do you have a particular artist that you look up to?

Not really. In my art classes we focus on researching a lot of artists and finding inspiration. I love Frida Kahlo, I’m Mexican. But I don’t ever look at work and try to reproduce it, even it’s for the sake of learning. I just do whatever I do. So I’ve never really thought about an artist that I want to compare myself to.

Why do you think Frida Kahlo was so influential?

I think it was because, at the time, she was very different from the other artists. She was a really strong, independent woman and was not about letting others tell her what to do. She would do whatever. She would dress masculine or feminine. I’m pretty sure she was bisexual, let’s just be clear. She really explored herself and used her art to represent her own self. Created images of her life and her dreams, and they were not always the most pretty looking things. And that’s why I always look up to her. A lot of my work focuses on me showcasing my experiences and what I get inside, and I just hope that other people will see it and relate to that, or see themselves represented as well. I think that’s what she strives [to do]. So I guess that was what was different about her at the time.

BODY
Male

Why do you make art?

It’s almost asking what life is to an artist. I make art to explore my own self, to release emotions, to release baggage. I think I do it for myself first and foremost. So like one of my pieces was really big; it was a self-portrait. It was about my suicide attempt from last year, and when I painted that, it was like I was releasing my baggage and releasing this struggle. Putting it on a canvas to show how I felt at that time, and like, that’s it. I don’t want to think about it again. I do it for myself, but I also want to showcase my other identities being a transgender, queer, Mexican boy. I want to showcase my own culture. The transgender struggle with being queer in my artwork. Have representation. We can all be accepted. We are all people here. Have our stories be told.

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Terrified

Was there a struggle doing art with the lack of representation in the art world for you?

I think initially when I was coming out, like at the end of middle school, beginning high school, there was not really an issue. I didn’t focus on others artwork, I just focused on Frida Kahlo. That was the only Mexican I knew. I didn’t even know that there were other transgender artists, queer artists. I didn’t even know that was a big thing, a big topic I could discover and create art about. I’m in I.B (International Baccalaureate) and in my I.B classes, they push me to look at other artists, and to look at queer, Mexican, or transgender artists, or other artists of color. So I think that’s when I started to realize there was art out there, and there are other issues I can learn and create art about. Every year [the class] visits an art museum. Last year I think we visited [Tacoma Art Museum] , maybe Seattle Art Museum. I don’t know, I’ve been to both, and usually here, or in Seattle Art Museum, there are exhibits for people of color or for specific artists of color. I remember at the Henry Art exhibit there was a show on trans history. That was really nice, looking at other trans artists. I think just putting myself out and searching for what I wanted to search for, that’s when I realized there was a place for me in the art world.

“I want to showcase my own culture. The transgender struggle with being queer in my artwork. Have representation. We can all be accepted. We are all people here.”

Why is transgender and queer representation in the arts important?

I think it’s important; it’s the same reason why shows, media, and movies and all that are important. We need to have our stories be told, listened, watched, understood, in order for the rest of the world to be accepting and loving of us. I think especially trans artists and queer artists in general, it’s really important to show our stories the way we want to show it. We have to make our own films, our own writing, and our own art, based our own experiences. I don’t think anyone else can really make stories for other people, so that’s why it’s important to have representation and showcase our beauty; because art just isn’t about a pretty picture, or white, skinny, naked girls. It can be about anything. And I think since it’s about anything, we should show that at in museums, in exhibitions, you know?

Why would you rather paint something than take a photo of it?

I think the media that I use is because of the opportunities I have. I was in a photo class once. No one ever taught me Photoshop. No one ever taught me to do these things, I learned Photoshop on my own. But when I was in my art class, they really gave me the tools. You can do whatever you want with this. So that’s why I’m really multimedia. Drawing, painting. I think that’s why. Getting the tools out here, getting the ability to do these types of things [is of value].

Discuss your favorite piece.

I think one of the first big, important pieces I’ve done, because in my years that I was in art classes I mostly created pieces that were really sad, and about my struggle being trans and queer. It is a good thing, and I do like being trans, but I think I wasn’t as accepting of myself when I created that, so I needed to kind of release emotions, you know what I was saying? But I think being Mexican, I’ve been proud of being Mexican my entire life. Despite what people say, despite the media, despite racism. I’ve never really seen what was really positive about being Mexican, or Mexican culture. It’s always shared among us, but never out in the open. So I wanted to create a piece celebrating my culture, instead of focusing on the negatives. It’s called Los Flores de Mexico. So it’s like flowers that remind me of Mexico, paintbrushes, and little paint pots. Alcatraz’s are really prominent in Mexican art, so I used that to represent my Mexican side. The roses are with the hand to show my religious side. Even though I’m not really religious, it’s still is a really big part of our culture, so I wanted that to be represented. The marigolds are with the skull, and it represents our celebrations and our traditions. The skull specifically is for Dia de los Muertos; it’s a big part of our culture. I wanted to showcase all of it in a subtle way, I guess.

FLOR
Los flores de México

Why do you think it’s important to have triumphant pieces in art?

There are a lot of stereotypes about being Latina, being Mexican, being any person of color, a lot of different races. But it’s mostly surrounded in negative stereotypes. It is super important to talk about it. But, I still think it’s important to showcase our beauty and our worth. Because, if we don’t showcase our positives and what we can bring, and that we are just people, like everyone else, people are just going to focus on the stereotypes. No matter if we are combatting it or upholding it, or not. It’s all just going to be in the negative. So I think it’s just as important to remember that we have culture. We have beautiful things about us and need to put it out there.

“I think especially trans artists and queer artists in general, it’s really important to show our stories the way we want to show it. We have to make our own films, our own writing, and our own art, based our own experiences.”

Do you have an ending statement that you want to say to any teenagers, in terms of Queer issues, art, or other things?

There is a lot of intersectionality between identities. While I am Mexican, it is important to remember I am queer; I am trans. When you think about being Mexican, you think about a man or a woman. Or a cisgender, Mexican dude. When you think about being trans, you think of a white, gay, trans dude, or something like that. You don’t really remember that there are intersecting identities. I am all of these things combined, and that’s what I want people to remember.

Go follow Jey on Instagram @prettyboypaints

Teen Interview #14

Tucker Gibbons, 18.


What school do you go to​?

Gig Harbor High school.

How did you start doing photography?

How did I start? Well, I always liked to look at photos in museums — actually not museums, art galleries. I always liked to go to those especially, and I really liked grey scale photos for some odd reason. Not grey scales just overcasting though. I always liked how the greens stood out a lot. And I don’t know, I feel like … it’s a really good place for that. So, I just got a camera and got in to it. It was kind of like that.

What defines the perfect picture?

In my eyes, the perfect picture isn’t the best quality necessarily or the sharpest-whatever people want to drag on about. Even the best picture, in my opinion, doesn’t have to deal with all the rules that people drag on about. I think it has to be a photo that has meaning to the photographer. If a person can look at it and take something meaningful away from it for themselves, I think it’s a good photo.

How long have you been taking photos?

I’ve been taking photos since sophomore year. But I usually don’t post photos on my Instagram, I mostly just keep them to myself. Partially because people are really volatile on social media, and I think that often times, if you can not subject yourself to such volatile comments, then why do that?

-Do your pictures ever cause controversy?

I don’t think that my pictures cause controversy, because there’s nothing controversial about them. I think that photographers and other artists have their own style, and people seem to acknowledge that. But, some photographers do believe that their style is the right one. What those artists need to realize, in my opinion, is that if somebody has their own style, then that’s the right one for them, and they need to accept that it may not be for others. I don’t think there’s this broad end to sweep every single photo into one category. So I recognize that other photographers capture some controversial material, but I don’t believe mine does.

Do you prefer portraits or landscapes?

I’ve done a few portraits. But I think it’s kind of awkward to initiate portraits. Unless it’s someone like your friends. And most of my friends are a bit squeamish around cameras. It’s kind of awkward to say, “hey can I take photos of you?” So portraits are definitely something that I want to get into more, but I just haven’t had the chance. I like portraits though for sure.

Do you have a favorite photo you’ve ever taken?

Not really. I have like three photos and I like them all equally. One is a recent photo I took on a lake. One is a portrait. It was at a portrait shoot but the person looked away and I liked how that turned out. And then another one was in New York City, at the Audrey List, and it was really abstract and weird, and I liked that about it.

How do you feel about Gig Harbor’s photography programs?

I think that our digital program is not a bad one. People want to take it for an art credit I guess. But it’s not really something you would take and actually learn a lot about photography, you know? Whatever– I didn’t expect it to be. But we have programs, obviously, it’s just not the absolute best. I think if someone has a passion for something they should be able to put effort towards it by getting out there and doing the work themselves. I don’t think photography needs to be downright taught. Obviously, there are rules that people like to follow, but as I said, I don’t think rules make the photo. Sometimes it will speak to a person. Sometimes it won’t.

Are you looking at photography as a career?

Not as a career. Just as a side job. I think in college I’m going to try to open up and take some shoots. But I don’t think it’s going to be a career because, unfortunately… as with a lot of the arts, it’s not necessarily the safest option.

Has living in Gig Harbor influenced your photography?

Not necessarily the high school, but more so the area. Because, I think that the Gig Harbor area around the school is very pretty. And there’s a lot of places to take photos. So if you want to start taking photos you don’t really have to travel anywhere. You can take your phone, go down to the beach and kind of get going. I think that our downtown is also artsy enough for photos. There are options there you just have to look for them.

Do you engage in other mediums of art?

I play piano and guitar. And I like those two. And, drawing…I wish I could draw. What I’ve heard is that I could practice drawing, but at this point, it just seems a little too late for me.

“I don’t think photography needs to be downright taught. Obviously, there are rules that people like to follow, but as I said, I don’t think rules make the photo.”

Does your music inspire your photography?

In a sense. In a complicated, convoluted sense. I like how with say, classical music, it flows and even if it’s sharp, it’s connected and it resonates while it’s not dissonant. I think that’s what it’s like with photography. If something is out-of-place and it’s dissonant, and it doesn’t blend with the subject, it almost sticks out. So it’s like I’m just hitting a rock, and I think that’s kind of how it connects – for me at least. I think that when you listen to classical music, a lot of people experience the emotion from that. And if I can do that with photography – well, that’s what I aim to do. Because a broad spectrum of people can take something away from art that doesn’t explicitly, obviously display emotion. But there’s more to it that’s up for interpretation. People can make it what they want to make it. People can do what they want. Also, I wish that I could take a photo that’s moving. But one that isn’t a video. So, that’s where it gets confusing.

Do you think teenagers in Gig Harbor should have a new platform to express their art?

The coffee shops around the area should branch out a little bit. Maybe just an emphasis on non-professional people who don’t do it for a living. No commercial artists, just local artists doing what they like to do. I think that would kind of enhance the community. Maybe it’s possible if you were to talk to them, they’d be interested in the idea. Maybe it’s something to branch out in to?

How can people make it better for teen artists in Gig Harbor?

If you get artists together and valor, in a sense, with teens. Something in Gig Harbor. Teens in art. Maybe that wIll get people to go. Maybe just a simple art club at the high school. I know that in the photography program at my school, there isn’t a community to it. People are just doing it to get the art credit. And I know that there are people who do photography who don’t take the classes. So I think that if there were a club, you’d attract people who were passionate, and not just trying to check off a box.

Go Check out Tucker’s Instagram @tucker_gibbons !

Teen Interview #13

Madison Castro, 17.


What school do you go to?

Graham Kapowsin High School.

Has the school influenced your artwork?

I think its been supportive of a lot of students. Not necessarily me, because I haven’t put myself into the art program at my own school. [Because] it’s just kind of hobby that I do and I don’t have a lot of time or credit room to do that. But they do have elective room, elective credit, for people to use at my school for the art program. The art program at my high school is actually pretty developed and supported. They do art shows, contests or things like that. They do that pretty often compared to other school districts. Not necessarily supporting me… but that’s not their fault-it’s mine. [Because] I just choose to not include myself in that stuff. I just stick to my stuff and do my own thing.

GK has developed music programs as well. Between art and music, which one do they support more?

I think they do musical things more just because there are a lot more people who start doing musical instruments. And learning that stuff pretty early on, while art is just a thing that people don’t encourage as much because people think you can’t make a career off of it. At least not a prosperous one. So I would say that the musical program is more supportive there.

You said you don’t have credit room to do a lot of art classes. Do students at GK do Core 24?

Yes, we do. We have to get twenty-four credits to graduate high school. I don’t know how many elective credits they give you. I think they give you two a year, but a lot of those are filled by computer classes that you need to take. Or technical classes or things like that, that people need that has to do with their career. But it doesn’t give them much room to be creative in school. They [artists] do it on their own. A lot of people who really like art, do it on their own no matter what and just try their best to be a part of it in school. And show their school their talents and things. But there’s not a lot of financial support as well. With people to show off their art and learn from it and grow as people.

Had you not been in Core 24, would you be in more art classes?

I think definitely I would have. I’ve always wanted to take an art class because I’m self-taught. And I’ve always wanted to see how it’s technically supposed to be done. I don’t know. There’s a lot of ways that you can do more. I wanted to be educated on it so I can develop my skills and enhance them to a point where I’m prouder of them and I feel like I’m living up to my potential. On my own I just kind of do my best. I’m proud of it but not as much as I would be if I knew how to use the tools and things like that.

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From what the committee has seen, high schools tend to focus more on sports, rather than art. Why do you think that is?

I think that people like sports just because it’s American culture. I think I just surround myself with people who support art and musical things in school a lot. And they are very enthusiastic for that. But this school, and other school districts from what I’ve experienced, people are more enthused about sports. Because they think that it’s a team effort and a lot of people just want to be social. And they think that art is not a social thing. That you do it by yourself. But people can do art together and that’s something that people don’t realize.

Do you find the way America focuses on art, to be toxic, or beneficial?

I think that it’s less the art, more the people. The people who are doing the art. Because people are just really obsessed with the drama of it all. And it’s kind of sad how it’s turned into like… you can put up any video of yourself jumping into pool and setting it on fire or something [laughs]. And you can go viral for that and be famous years after that and it’s not really talent. It’s not really hard work. And I’m not saying that no one does that now because there are people who try to use their platforms for themselves and their own aspirations. But a lot of things with fame now, is supporting people being asinine. It’s not the art they are showing, its more the people that are doing it. And their own lives. because people can’t have their own lives. They don’t decide to. They just like watching other people’s.

Who is responsible for implementing change in Tacoma?

As we get older…the youth are the future of America. And if we support that and encourage it to its highest level, out of the years as we get older, and grow as people and we catch the mistakes being made now and learn to speak up about the things that  affected us in negative ways- we can change that. I just think it’s really important to know that even if we are young, there’s so many people who can do things. Like what you guys are doing here.

Who do you look up to that is implementing change?

I don’t think I look up to celebrities who are implementing change because I know that they do that. I’ve met a lot of educators. Musical educators and arts educators at my school and other districts and things from contests. And things that I’ve been on and meeting them. And seeing how they support their peers and people that they mentor to grow and never stop doing what they’re doing. And letting them know how important their voice in the art community and musical community and all of it. Just generally the educators I’ve met that let people know that their voice is heard.

Are there any talents you wish you had besides your current ones?

I’d like to get better at watercolor painting and oil painting. I just want to learn how to use a lot of different mediums. I just like painting in general and I’ve only ever really used watercolor and acrylic. I just use plain pencils. I don’t really use pencil pencils or anything. I just use like a school pencil. Like a number 2 pencil and go to town because I don’t even know how to use professional pens. I’ve never been taught professionally. I just do the best with what I have. And I just wish I knew how to use professional things and how that affects the art it’s supposed to look like. I just think I’m underdeveloped in some things. I know I am, and I just want to get better.

Is there a benefit to in-person teaching?

Well, considering I haven’t ever actually had in person teaching [laughs]. What I hypothesize would be… the benefit I’ve heard is that you can see it happening first hand and you can stop them and ask them what they’ve been doing in first hand. And you can stop them and ask them how they did it. And how to mimic that and how to include that in your own art style. Everyone has their own different expressions that they want to show the world. When you’re in an art class I believe they do teach how to do it one set way, but you need that knowledge. And use that knowledge to your advantage when you’re doing your own unique works. Compared to like doing it on YouTube. I’ve watched a lot of weird videos where it’s like, ‘You use this this this and this,’ and it’s usually like digital things. What if you don’t have that software? What if you can’t afford that software? So usually that’s why I like to stick with pen, pencil, and paper and it ends up looking okay, at least from what I’ve heard [laughs].

How can less privileged people build their art skills?

Personally, I didn’t have any special things to start out with. I think I had the same crayon box all throughout elementary school. [Madison’s mom] She didn’t want to buy new ones every year. She had four kids to buy school supplies for every year and that’s hundreds every year and we couldn’t afford that. So that’s how I taught myself. Using what I had was like a paper at school, like I did it on lined paper. I doodled on everything. Eventually, it was something that I asked for on special occasions, like materials. I have canvases stacked in my room currently because so many people have been kind enough to give me them, because they support me and my growth as an artist… And I think that’s what mainly drives people to keep going. The fact that they don’t have a lot and they want to see what they can do if they had… more resources. It just shows the drive that people have to express themselves, and that they are confident in their voice.

How do you look at something then decide that you want to draw it?

Mainly I like to draw people. Mainly because people are intricate and people are different. It’s fun to see how many different ways you can draw a person and how many different styles you can do it. Sometimes I get inspiration for a drawing from seeing a person and I’m like, ‘wow they look so unique!’ [Laughs] In a nice way! And I’m like, ‘wow, I wonder how I could draw that” and then I just kind of come up with it as I go and I’m like “wow, that turned out okay.” I just see people and kind of come up with it as I go. I just kind of see people. I do stuff besides people. I do some landscape things. I look at stuff for a long time because I feel [like] it helps in my mind; by just studying things a lot. My mom kind of realizes that when I do that. I just kind of space out and she’s like “are you okay?” and I’m like “yeah”. It’s just–I’m like “that’s just really beautiful” and then I go back and try to recreate it because I want people to experience the beauty I saw.

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What can Tacoma do to bring teens together?

I think that this group is definitely a good start because you guys are reaching out a lot and it’s really admirable. And I think that the way you guys are doing right now is pretty great. You guys got all the way to me and I’m in little old Graham. I’ll be sure to talk to other people about this. And I feel like we’re so close to being adults. We’re on the cusp of making huge changes, starting out by making this teen group and reaching out to teens and letting them know of their importance and that their roles in the art society matters.

Go follow Madison on Instagram ! @cas.maddie

Duck Duck Noose

Amidst the prominent issues engraved in America, racism thrives as one of them. It is considered an opinion on others, yet a curse on African-Americans alike. The very thought of acknowledging racism is an important part of the battle. The battle that captivates African-Americans, as if they were seized by the neck again.

When given the question of a national conversation, one can only look beyond the plight. A national conversation consisting of conditions, or stipulations about a new rule. In a society, where views are not smudged with systemic racism, a national debate would be lively. Two sides would engage in a historic diplomacy and would change the nation forever. Black boys would be tried as boys again, and black women could persist as polite ladies.

Alas, this is not the case in America, and without change, it never will be. A conversation like so would require a majority of people who are willing to face complications. A majority of people who are not skewed by privilege, or egocentrism. A majority of men, and women, who do not advocate for Christianity, and then defend the Confederate flag. People who demand change. A race that is not entitled to anything, but new perspectives.

In 1952, when West Germany faced the metaphorical costs of the war, “very few Germans believed that Jews were entitled to anything,”(Coates). In fact, “only 5 percent of West Germans surveyed reported feeling guilty about the Holocaust, and only 29 percent believed that Jews were owed restitution from the German people.” (Coates). I fear the percentage is deeply lower in white people, in America.

When evidence of police brutality surface or the eyes of racism become too clear, white citizens blame it on our nonsense. On our pants being too low, or our heads being too thick. When Philando Castle was shot, white people noted the video, then looked for signs of resistance. Mortified they were until they found a loophole to excuse the injustices he “deserved.” Thoughts and prayers were sent to the officer, rather than to Castle’s daughter. It was his fault because he resisted orders.

Yet, as African-Americans saw otherwise, the change was only internal. When the case was presented to the courts, the officer was left acquitted, found non-guilty on all charges. Earl Gray, a lawyer for Officer Yanez, even stated that he was “still very shook up” after the verdict, but “extremely happy it’s over” (Smith).  Even as a non-white person, the officer lost neither sleep nor morals over the case. The judge bid him adieu, and he continued to live his life. Though he took a life, he had only taken a black life, and that made the slightest difference in his conscience.

If we can’t expect non-white people in America to have remorse for black people, who do we run to? When murders are not enough to awaken a soul, or when we are seen as “brothas,” young thugs to be locked up, rather than “people with a purpose in life,” the thought of a national debate tickles us (Yankah). A conversation that would require a majority of reason, or a majority of thought. A conversation that would require white people to be sympathetic to something outside of college and job promotions. A diplomatic race that would verbally put black people, on the same podium as whites.

We, as black people, are more than willing to endorse a conversation that addresses injustice and murder. We have been ready, since 250 years ago. This is not our fight, for once, and this is not our stage. America will listen to a cause if it employs a white face. A pure embodiment of America. We are too busy being murdered, and spit on, to hope for this conversation. It is in their soft, and warm hands now.

Teen Interview #12

Emma Brennan, 16.


What school do you attend?

I attend Curtis High School.

In schools, are athletics or arts more appreciated?

Athletics; It’s just an American thing. Everyone’s so into sports, it draws the biggest crowd. People love going to football games because they’re fun, and they are fun, but I think they should branch out and try to participate in other things. Go to a choir concert or something. I think that the American culture is so into sports; although it is into arts. We have the super bowl, people can’t really help it.

How has, or hasn’t your school impacted your contribution to the arts?

It has, there are a lot of opportunities to participate. I love being in orchestra choir. For theatre, there are a lot of opportunities, although I don’t get into all of them [laughs].They’re really fun; it’s really fun to be a part of a family when you do get into them.

How has the education system sparked, or ignored, the arts?

I feel like our school has a really good arts program. It could be better; I don’t understand the favoring of other clubs and sports over some arts. I know our art program at Curtis is really strong but at other schools, it’s lacking. Theatre departments are really underdeveloped, which is sad.

What are your art mediums?

My top one is music, but I love theater. Theater is right underneath it. Theater and music have just been really important to me. I’ve been singing and playing the piano for a really long time. I got into theater in the eighth grade. I play the cello and the piano. I used to take lessons, but I stopped that- classical lessons aren’t my thing. I always wish I could play the guitar since I love rock music. I wish I could play the electric guitar because they’re so cool! Anyone who plays the electric guitar—you’re winning!

Do you wish you were multitalented? In what?

I’ve always wanted to be athletic. I always make fun of myself and athletes. I’m so sorry, [laughs] but I wish I was them sometimes! I used to really play volleyball, but I can’t play at all anymore. In the arts I’m fine, but I’ve always wanted to be athletic. I’m a real faker, I always pretend to be [athletic].

What music genre do you feel should be more popular?

I like listening to classic rock and alternative rock, I dig that. Also, I love a good show tune.

Who do you look up to when you feel especially uninspired?

Oh gosh, it changes a lot. I really love this artist, her name is Joni Mitchell, her time has passed. Her lyrics are some of the greatest things I’ve ever heard in my life. Her style is underappreciated now because her time was in the 70’s. Her lyrics are crazy; I don’t know how someone can write like that. More recently I really like Sara Bareilles’ lyrics. The part of songs that I really think is important is the lyrics. Melodies are really important too. But what it’s saying… you know?

What qualifies as “art”?

Art is getting creative and creating something that you put a lot of effort into. It can be music or painting, but I don’t want to sectionalize it. It’s hard to explain but just getting creative and putting yourself into something, whatever that may be. You could say your school work is art if you’re putting yourself into it and enjoying what you’re doing.

What is an underrated art, in your opinion?

This is going to sound pushy, but I think theatre is very underappreciated. A whole bunch of people just try out, thinking it’s weird or out of their comfort zone, and they end up loving it. I know someone who did “one acts” for one year, and they went to minor in theatre in college. I think if you try out for a show, even if you don’t get in, it’s so fun. It will be the least judgemental audience you have.

How has participation in the arts changed your perspective on life and the world?

Before I wanted to do a practical job, just like everyone else wanted, but I didn’t know what that was. I feel like if I hadn’t found theatre or music, I would go to college not really knowing. I have found myself in the arts, and that is the only choice I gave myself; that is the only thing I want to do.

Do you think there should be a balance in art promotions between adults and youth?

I think there should be a balance. I’m not really into [visually] artistic stuff, but those young people are going to be the future. They deserve to have their work shown off and they deserve attention.

How do you think theatre affects Tacoma?

There’s a lot of community theaters in Tacoma, and just from our school, there are a lot of people who want to go and watch. I can imagine that’s something for people in Washington especially, our state is really into the arts. There are a bunch of opportunities to see live theater, and that’s really good.

Why is theatre so expensive and how can we change that?

Kids don’t know that it’s an option to get good tickets. Youth should get access to cheaper tickets. I think that it should have an accessible price option. It shouldn’t be too cheap, because it’s going to art, and that should always have money going into it, but it should still be accessible.

How can theatre improve in inclusiveness?

[By looking] from a different point of view. Maybe if they took a chance on people that they haven’t worked with before, get out of the same thing. I know at TMP, they have the same people on every single show and it would be cool to see them including different people, even if they don’t know them. If they show what they can do, and they’re good, I think they should make it.

What are your short-term and long-term goals in relation to the arts?

I really want to do theatre and music any chance I get. I don’t have to do it professionally or release my own music. Maybe if there is a choir within a city, I’ve seen those. I want to keep myself sharp in singing and regular music, instead of just doing theatre. I want to continue doing music and maybe even continue with orchestra-that’s gonna be harder. I hope to not lose that because it’s really special!

Emma in Les Misérables

 

Go follow Emma on Instagram! @Emmab253

Teen Interview #11

Hal Warren, 16. Lemmon, 17.


What type of genre would you label your own music?

Lemmon: You know, I think it’s definitely hip-hop, we kind of have our own flavor of originality within that, though.
Hal: Yeah. We’re rap and hip-hop for sure, but I feel like a lot of people put themselves in that box and they’re like, “Oh we’re this genre” and then people are like, “But you’re a rapper” or “You’re a Soundcloud rapper,” and I feel like that term gets thrown around a lot, but it’s like… we make music. And I think the expression of an artist shouldn’t be within one genre. People are inspired to make lots of different types of music that sounds different and that’s okay.

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Hal

How long has KID GENIUS been around?

Lemmon: A year.
Hal: Yeah, a little over a year.
Lemmon: We started last December. [Last] January was when we started actually writing songs.

What is the origin of the name?

Lemmon: It’s on you Hal.
Hal: Liam was producing a beat and I was really vibin’ with it, and I was like, “Dude, this is genius! You’re like a kid genius!” and it just kind of got thrown out and that was going to be the name of the song. And then we were like maybe we could start something. Then later I was like, “What should our name be?” and he said, “Kid Genius” and we weren’t set on it but it stuck.
Lemmon: Seemed good.
Hal: Yeah.

What role do you both play in the group?

Hal: I’m the rapper and vocalist and Liam’s the producer, so all of the instrumentals.
Lemmon: All of the music is from me.
Hal: We’ll make songs together, but he’s the mastermind behind all of the beats and all of the songs.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Lemmon: Mine comes from everywhere. It’s not just one person within the hip-hop genre, but it’s people from rock and roll or jazz or even classical music. Seeing how they can find their originality, find their sound within their genre is an inspiration to me. I guess that’s what we’re trying to do with our stuff.
Hal: He’s inspired by a lot of ambient stuff, like there’s this artist named John Hopkins that he really likes. I’ve been kind of obsessed with the whole underground scene. There are artists like Suicide Boys, Wifisfuneral, and Pouya and all these underground guys that aren’t mainstream. I have kind of been obsessed with that genre for a long time, and I have just recently begun to draw a lot of inspiration from local guys like Peasant Boys and I’ll fight you. And of course, the classics like Tupac and Biggie, Outkast and Public Enemy. Our next project really focuses on the root sounds, like when you think of hip-hop, like the old school beats and relatively simple flows. I also listen to a lot of heavy metal, and Counterparts.
Lemmon: I listen to whatever he listens to. He just tells me to listen to stuff and I go. We draw stuff from everywhere.

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Lemmon

What advice do you have for people just starting their own bands?

Lemmon: I would say take action and don’t be afraid. Know how much you want. If you’re doing it just for fun, that’s great. I find that with us, we’ve had a lot of talks about how far we want to go with it, and I feel like that’s important too. Your desire, and how much you love music.
Hal: If music doesn’t make you happy, you shouldn’t do it. People make music for every single reason you can possibly think of, and every single one of those reasons is valid. Like he said, if you’re gonna do it, really do it. It’s okay to be unsure. We don’t really know what we’re doing, we just like making music and we’re still figuring it out. Just start making stuff. Just do stuff; just make stuff. Start putting out music.

What motivates you to not give up?

Lemmon: I’m addicted to making music, so there’s no way I can quit.
Hal: Liam spends hours and hours and hours on end just on his computer making beats. He’s read entire books on Ableton. There are so many artists for everyone, that really means a lot to them and that has inspired them or helped them work through a section of their life that was really hard. So even the smallest possibility that our music, or something that I create, could help somebody else through something or inspire them or change their life even, just that small chance that I could touch one person, is the coolest thing for me. The fact that we can be a source of sanction for the people.
Lemmon: It’s giving back, you know?
Hal: Couldn’t say it any better.

What is the current project/goal you are working on right now?

Lemmon. Project and goals are two very different things.
Hal: Yeah.
Lemmon: Tell them about the project.
Hal: We very recently just started talking about our next project. We just dropped an EP called “Journey” that was kind of like our first step. Our first step is kind of like identifying it like, “okay we are really gonna do this.” But our next project is …we don’t really have a name for it yet.
Lemmon: Not yet.
Hal: We’re working on something, but there’s another EP in the works.

Is it luck, or hard work that shows results?

Lemmon: It’s luck- no.
Hal: Bro, you got to have hard work.
Lemmon: Some things are just natural, but at the end of the day, if you were to take someone who is naturally good at music versus someone who works every day at it, over a period of time I don’t think the person with luck is going to win.

What art besides music, do you find especially intriguing?

Lemmon: Photography is one thing I find very intriguing. It’s really cool that we can use it with our music with our album art. I’m very strict with album art.
Hal: Image is such an important thing.
Lemmon: You gotta find an image that blends with the music. You can’t have a heavy metal song with a picture of a butter-
Hal: Butterfly.
Lemmon: Or violin or something.
Hal: Well you can make anything out of anything.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Hal: Hopefully in Los Angeles or somewhere in California making music. I mean, that’s our dream that we want.
Lemmon: That’s the target.
Hal: Yeah it’s to go to California. I kind of fell in love with it after a couple of trips. Every time I’m there I’m like, “This is where I’m supposed to be.” So hopefully there, doing this.

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How are success and fame different?

Lemmon: I mean, you can be an electrician and be successful, but not have fame, you know? What do you think about that, Hal?
Hal: I think success is very subjective; like very subjective.
Lemmon: I agree. It’s happiness.
Hal: I think success is contentment. One person’s success may be finally making that first song or playing their first show, or releasing their first project. While another person’s success may be having six albums go double platinum and selling out every major stadium in the US. Both of those are equal and valid success, but fame isn’t necessarily success. There are people who have gotten famous over the stupidest things.
Lemmon: Yeah,
Hal: Just because you’re famous doesn’t mean you’re successful.

Why is it important to recognize teen art?

Lemmon: They’re the future; teens are the future.
Hal: Everyone’s voice is valid. A lot of people say like, “You’re just a kid. You don’t know what you’re doing. You don’t know where you want to go you. You don’t know what you want to do.” And a lot of kids are like, “Yes I do.” And they don’t know how to express that. A lot of these kids are so creative and so different and they challenge certain ideas and they bring out these ideas and they bring out certain things and it’s like, listen to these kids! They have very important things to say. Every voice is valid.
Lemmon: It’s valid.
Hal: Its completely valid, and it’s a different perspective. And most of it is without an ego. I say that tentatively because there are a lot of kids that have big egos. But I think adults have the biggest egos. They’re like, “We know everything. We’re gonna teach you.” And it’s like, that’s true-they can teach you a lot, but like-
Lemmon: No.
Hal: Yeah.

How can Tacoma improve in highlighting work from teens?

Lemmon: Probably open up more places to play than just Realart.
Hal: There’s Louie G’s in Fife and there’s Realart. I feel like more places for specifically youth art to showcase, or more events for kids to meet other teen artists to network. I am very, very fortunate to be at SOTA with other art kids who make music. In any room, there’s anyone who can do anything, and you could potentially have all the musicians to make an album and all the artists to make artwork and all the people who know how to push that album. More of the local community, I guess.

Who is responsible for giving Teens a platform?

Hal: I think teens are going to have more initiative because adults are going to be more hesitant to invest in that, even though it makes more sense to invest in the future than other things. I think teens, and just kids, will have the better mindset for that, but in reality, adults have the resources and the positions to make these things happen.

Go check out Lemmon @Lemmonproductions and Hal @Halwarren_
And follow the two at @Kidgenius_
Also take a minute to listen to their music!

Teen Interview #10

Felipe Varela, 17


Meet Felipe Varela, he has joined the Teens in Tacoma group as our photographer!

What inspires you?

Something that inspires me the most, is that when I create something, I have the chance to share it with people that are close to me. And that’s something that I really enjoy. Showing people something I’ve created in general, is a really cool feeling to experience and that’s what I work towards.

Would you still make art if you weren’t able to show it to anyone?

See that’s tough because it kind of contradicts what I just said. But yes, I would still make art because not only is there that feeling of one enjoying your art, there’s that self-satisfaction with what you’ve created, and knowing you can make something amazing.

How would you define ‘art?’

The definition of art is an expression of yourself and creation. Art can be anything you say it is and I know that’s the cliche answer. It’s what everyone says art is. It’s whatever you want it to be. But in reality, it’s sort of true. Art is the expression of yourself and whatever you create, that you feel inspires you or others.

What drew you to photography?

More than anything I work on film. And so I just sort of began making videos, and this outlet for me was creating a visual media for others. So I sort of drew off of that and meddled with photography as well because they’re so similar to me. Photography is a lot quicker of a process; quicker to get results with photography. A video is more of a tedious art form, for me. Others may not think so. I think videos are a more difficult medium of art, and they require more effort and time. And for photography, I think it’s that I can make something beautiful with a camera, a computer; You can make something surreal very easily.

Why this specific media instead of drawing or painting?

I can’t draw or paint. Photography and video were what I told myself I wanted to do with my life, so I just said, why not get started? I chose photography because I saw people that inspired me. Youtubers, like CaseyNeistat or Peter Mckinnon, that not only create videos and artwork but also explain what it means to them. And that inspires me to do more in this field.

As a high schooler, do you feel pressured to pursue a more practical field?

A lot of the time, people are like, you’re going to art school, you’re not going to make any money. It’s not about the money. I’ve never thought logically in my life or made a plan for myself. So the only way I function is by creating because it’s the only thing I’m focused on at this time. Wherever life ends up leaving me with is how I’ll end up. If it’s in a box in the slums of New York, but I’m still creating content that will be enough for me.

What are the next moves you want to make as an artist?

My plans have always been, to become a filmmaker I guess for the most part. A lot of people define that as going in the Hollywood set, and making big budget films. I agree that’s sort of the major leagues of film but at the same time, that’s not really the goal for me. I think the goal is to make films that people enjoy and experience.

Do you think high schoolers explore art enough?

That’s very broad. When you say high schoolers that embodies every single one. There are some students that are really passionate about art, that really enjoy the inspiration it brings to them. But at the same time, there are others focused on materialistic things and not experience. But it [art] could be enjoyed by more people. That would be more ideal in my opinion. If people had the motivation to go to an art museum.

Do you think teens are represented in Tacoma the same as adults?

So I work a lot with other adults. and I’ve seen that if u respect them and don’t act snobby with your craft they will respect you a lot more because they hire you for a reason. They know that you know more than them and if you’re not shoving that in their faces and being too overbearing with it, they will give you more freedom to create. And I guess that’s what respect means to me. It’s when people realize what you’re making is true art.

-So there needs to be a balance?

Of course, there needs to be a balance between two parties.

Check out more of Felipe on Instagram! @FelipeFuego

Teen Interview #8

Westley Richard Hackler, 16.


How did you get into art?

My grandmother signed me up for a class in my elementary school. It was a project and they teach the basics of theater. Like how to work well with others. Then after that, it just became what I did every single year.

What was the first production you were in?

The very first production I was in was called, “Prince the Popper,” a rock musical. It was a show about young Prince the Popper, your normal story. But it had a more modern theme to it. I would say I was around 10 years old when I did it.

What is your favorite theater production you’ve been in?

“The Secret in the Wings.” It was a Grimms’  brothers fairy tale show. It was really dark and mysterious. Out of the box. Really good.

Was the transition to theater a gradual process, or a straight breakthrough?

I’ve been straight going into theater. After this, I’m going right to an audition.

Does your school, or the people in your school inspire you?

I wanna say both. Because the school itself gives you opportunities to pursue your art. And the people around you, give you positive feedback and a positive environment. And you’re able to work and improve with it.

Why do you think you gravitated towards theater and not another form of art-making?

The reason why I gravitated toward theater is that it’s so complex. And it’s really impossible to master. I just saw a challenge and I like a challenge.

What would a life without theater be like?

Not well. I’ll say that. With theater, it’s gotten me out of some pretty bad times in my life. Out of trouble. It’s given me a home, and a safe place to go to when you’re feeling that life isn’t the best.

Are theater families a myth, or an accurate thing?

Theater families are for sure a thing. It’s just a normal cast, but as you create your bonds while doing shows, they’re like your best friends. And you don’t consider them your best friends because they’re always there for you. You know their good qualities and bad qualities and they just hook together.

Why do you think teens need art?

Teens need art because it’s something you can express emotion in, that’s not always the easiest form to use with words. So they show it with how they act, draw, move around; it becomes a more important thing in your life than just some object.

Where do you see your passion for arts taking you?

The main goal is to become a part of a touring company. New York is not really my thing. I like California a lot more. The environment there; but also if I was a part of a touring company I could travel to a lot of places and different countries. I really enjoy the idea of that.

What are your next steps to grow as an artist?

To grow as an artist, I always go to my director and ask what I can improve first. Those are tiny things I can work on. Colleges. What are the good ones?  What’s a reputable name so, after this, I can show what I’ve been? What I’ve done. Getting paid enough to live.

Do you think other cities can learn from Tacoma or vise versa?

I feel like knowledge is passed around from this area to that area. We all share the same things.

Why do you think organizations for teens are important?

It helps get the word out. Art isn’t expressed enough. It’s a dying breed and there are very few people who are trying to keep it alive. I feel organizations like this keep it going.

Follow Westley @scratly14 on Instagram!

Teen Interview #7

Stevie Bono, 16.


How did you get in to dance?

Well, I was a gymnast first and I saw a dance class at the studio across from my gym, and I was like, “I hate gymnastics.” I kind of wanted to start dancing and my mom was like, “yes let’s do that.” When I started dancing I was 9.

How did you get into photography?

When I was younger, but I started really getting into it with my friend Lily.

Do you prefer one art to another?

I prefer to dance. Or take photos for any type of art. It’s a physical activity and a way to get exercise, but also it’s a way to express yourself.

How would you define art?

I define art by a piece of work that someone has deliberately worked on to express themselves.

Do you enjoy being a teen artist?

I think that it’s good but it’s also not as well-known as it should be. Also in the places that it is known, it’s very competitive. I don’t think there’s a broad enough spectrum of places.

How does being a minority affect your art?

Being a minority can affect my art in a way that inspires me more. But also as a dancer, there are many women who dance. But as a small non-white, Asian ballerina, it can be hard to find your place.

How would you define the perfect picture?

The perfect picture would probably be candid pictures of people in their most fun moment. Or really unique pictures of what goes on in the world.

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What message do you want to put across in the world?

It often changes with the day but usually, it’s,”you always have power,” no matter how small you feel. You can always do what you put your mind to.

Do you think that teens have a stage to portray their message?

I think that there is a platform. But it’s not very big. And for dance, it’s more pageant-y and it lost the focus on art. And you come to see who’s wearing the least amount of clothing or who can seduce the judges more. And it’s not about who was creative or more meaningful. For photography and other types of art, it’s hard to be known. No one talks about it much. You’re like,” hey I take photos.” And they’re like cool. But no one is really like, “show me some of them.” Or like, what does this mean?

Do you have a favorite dance that you’ve been in?

Each dance is so different that I don’t have a favorite one that’s been choreographed. I have given performances definitely. And then favorite photos taken are mostly candids of my friends. Unless my friend is a really good model.

Where do you want your art to go?

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. Especially one I started high school. I quit my dance team because I just want to focus on the art side of it too. Right now I want it to go… currently I don’t know. I just want to do it for my family or friends. But I don’t want to make money off it.

Why do you think it’s important that teens have art in their lives?

Because if we don’t have a healthy way to handle our emotions or try to explain how we feel, we can get bottled up. It’s not healthy. It doesn’t create a good community or environment.

 

Follow Stevie @stevie_bono, & stevie_b_photo on Instagram!

Teen Interview #4

Zach Norris, 17 


What instrument do you mainly play, and why did it initially interest you?

I play guitar. I think it interests me because my dad played guitar when he was younger, and that’s the main kind of music I listened to. It’s our music in a sense, and it just seemed cool to do. I’ve never really known anything better, I guess.

At what age did you start showing an interest in music, and did you ever stop this progression?

I started to play guitar in second grade, but [the general interest] was probably way younger than that. My parents have stories where I would sing all the time, as a very small child, so probably the majority of my life. I took a lot of breaks. It happens a lot less now. There was a lot of reaching a point progression, then it gets too hard and you give up.

When did you know that music was something more meaningful to you? 

Probably my sophomore year; that’s when it clicked. That’s when I started writing songs. I had been playing songs in a band for a while but I hadn’t sat down to write a song. It all started to click, you realize that you can filter emotions.

What message does your band try to convey?

I’ve gone through a couple phases. At this point, I’ve played in a lot of bands that have different messages. I’ve played in a band called Slog, where the message is resistance, fighting outer issues within yourself. My solo projects  varies.

What’s the difference in being an independent musician, from being a member of a band?

Like I said with my band Slog, the writing process is collaborative. You don’t just sit down and write a punk song by yourself, everyone’s working together. It’s angry music, so we tend to get mad all the time. But then I think when I’m playing my own music, and I’m just in my room, writing by myself, I can do whatever the hell I want. [I can] change things, add things, right there. I think having that outlet of individual work is always a good thing to have.

“My sophomore year; that’s when it clicked. That’s when I started writing songs. I had been playing songs in a band for a while but I hadn’t sat down to write a song. It all started to click, you realize that you can filter emotions.”

What music do you listen to?

All, I’ve never had boundaries. I like what I like. Little pieces of everything.

Describe the moments when you feel especially inspired. 

Probably when I’m listening to other music. I go to school downtown so if I’m walking downtown, music is all I’m thinking about. If an idea pops up, I’m always like, “I have to do that right now.”

What events or programs do you wish you had in Tacoma to showcase your music? 

More places to play,  because I can record all the music I want. Musicians are lacking, especially in places to play; places that are accessible to other people. There’s not a ton of all-ages venues. Coffee shops are hard to put on a show. 

Would you say Tacoma represents young artists well?

I think it does better with young artists compared to Seattle, definitely. Everyone’s more equal here in terms of age. Everyone moves with each other. I think it definitely does a better job than other places.

Check out his music on SoundCloud, and go check out other songs!