I actually had zero experience before high school. Besides IDEA I had no shop making experience. So, really it started with IDEA and being encouraged to do things; to learn and to fail.
Describe your art-making process in three words.
Pinterest. Failing. Trying.
We were surprised that you do laser engraving because no ones ever done that, it’s mostly drawing and painting. Do you feel that that’s [engraving] is really unique and special to you?
Yeah, I started doing laser engraving…I do CNC work, which instead of a human cutting pieces of wood, it’s a robot doing it. And, I started learning how to do that because I was too afraid to use the table saw, and I didn’t want to lose a finger. Now, of course, I know how to use it. I started doing it because…no one else wanted to, no one else was doing it, so I do feel like it is unique to me. At least at my school, no one else is the laser engraving person. When someone needs something laser cut or engraved, or any of the CNC work it comes to me.
Would you like to have other areas of art? Like music or painting?
My sister did music, she went to Stadium and did Bassoon; got a full ride scholarship for it. So it was like.. that was already done. So I thought I’d do something else. It doesn’t really interest me. I’d like to get better at drawing.
What would you say is something that represents your art? What emotions affect your art?
Ingenuity, I guess would be it. My quote for myself is, “I like making things that make other people happy. ” I like making people happy. I like making people smile. So a lot of the stuff I make I give to other people, that’s why I don’t have a lot of it physically. Like, I made a laser engraving of Tacoma, a map of it, put it in the laser engraver, burned it onto two pieces of wood and gave it to my sister. I give a lot of stuff to my girlfriend. I give a lot of stuff to my family and our school and other people. I do the same with my friend. So I tend to give away things, I don’t tend to keep them
When you make art do you think, “Oh this is really great I want to keep it for myself” or are you specifically hoping to give pieces away?
I usually start by making things for myself, because I want to make it. Unless it’s a present specifically, I start by deciding, “Oh I wanna try this, I wanna try this new method of doing this. I wanna try this and see if it’s easier.” I don’t really think of the whole plan, like where it’s going to end up. It usually just ends up something else thinking it’s cool and me saying, “Oh do you want to have it? Keep it, go for it.” Or this is really cool, this means a lot to me, I’m going to keep it. Or, sometimes no one wants it. And, then I’ll keep it.
Would you say your school inspires your art or passes you by?
The school really inspires me. With IDEA, we only started three years ago, we’re brand new. I was actually our schools first ASB president. And, so being in our school and being in an area with people who also like doing this, people are really creatively charged and also want to try new things. And, they know what you’re talking about. If I say to someone at IDEA, “This COT laser blah blah blah,” just general jargon, they’ll know what I’m talking about. They’ll say, “Oh that’s super cool!” Or, “That’s kinda lame.” They’re very honest and they’re very supportive. I really like the culture and community thats at the school.
I live in Olympia, I just dance and go to school a lot.
Is there a big dance or art community in Olympia? No, Olympia is like a dead town. I know there’s this one vampire bar, where all the lights are out and the windows are tinted; there’s a lot of interesting people there.
How did you get into Tacoma’s art scene? A long time ago I was a skunk in a Winnie the Pooh play, and one of the people in the play went to Tacoma School of the Arts (TSOTA). After she introduced me to it I began going there and slowly my whole life switched to be up here.
How long have you been dancing? I started dancing when I was three, but then two years ago my dance teacher took me to Pittsburg with a bunch of other people and it switched my perspective. So I’ve been really focused on dance for the past two years.
What is the most interesting part of dancing to you? There are the hours you put into training because it takes a lot of physical form, but I think my favorite part of dance is when you get on stage and you let everything go. You’re just trying to be as vulnerable as you can to whoever is out there and try to connect with them.
Like you said dance seems very personal and powerful. When you are dancing you said you try to connect with people, is that ever difficult to do because dance is so vulnerable? Yeah, it took a really long time to figure out how to be vulnerable but not read to other people.
You have to switch being vulnerable to yourself and being vulnerable to people in the audience, which is completely different. It’s hard to learn the difference between the two, and how to respect them because they are so important, while still showcasing what you need to in the moment.
How have you taken your dance out into the community? I do a lot of performances with my school, and we compete. Recently I’ve been traveling a lot out of state, going to dance conventions and things like that. However, I’m working on my senior project at school right now, so I’ve been working a lot with other dancers in Tacoma that I don’t know. To put together pieces for our show, my friend is making all the music for it which is really cool.
Dance can sometimes feel secluded to people who aren’t involved in it, how do you think people can interact with dance? There’s been a lot of studies that show how dance can improve your cognitive skills when you’re younger. So, I want people to go out and see dance in whatever form, whether is it’s a school show or they just see someone dancing on the street. I want people to interact by putting their kids into dance because it’s so good for them.
Would you say you make art for yourself or the community? The one hard thing with dance is that when you’re younger, you have to dance in companies and make a name for yourself; I feel like it’s hard to say if I’m making work at this point for myself or the community. But I definitely want to engage with the community and I want as many people to get involved in dance as possible. Because it’s such an elitist thing, you have to go to a studio and train and all of that. I want as many people to be given the opportunities that I was afforded before I leave for college.
What is your current plan for the future? It mostly involves moving to New York next year and hoping that I don’t end up homeless. But if I do it’s okay. Some people have these really big aspirations for dance, like, ‘oh I want to start a company,’ but I just want to dance and live off of it. I don’t really care what form that takes, and I’d love to teach at some point.
Would you say that the art world needs to be more connected? Yeah, I think there needs to be more cross-collaboration. There are so many different aspects to different art and I wish that everyone would work together a little bit more. And, put on shows with musicians working with dancers or photographers. There are so many cool ways to come together and I want to see them all become cohesive.
What are some steps to expand the art community in your opinion? I think it’s all about outreach. The more you can get it out there and the more accessible you can make it for people who wouldn’t have the opportunities to experience art is a super important part. Just getting it out there so people can do it.
You mentioned collaborating, does SOTA include a lot of that? Yeah, for the dance concert we’re doing in the spring, everything that we’re performing to is sung by the choirs at our sister school SAMI. There’s a lot of collaboration, especially in the dance department, our teacher likes to get us to collaborate. So that’s cool, and the students really like to work together.
Have you played around with any other art forms? I was a skunk in Winnie the Pooh so I acted when I was eight, but I’ve been pretty dance-centric since the seventh grade.
How does the type of music influence your dancing? I think there are the really obvious differences in genres, like if Kendrick’s playing you’re not going to be doing ballet and all that, but the lines are getting muddled on that in the dance world. It’s slowly becoming more and more able to play around. I think It’s mostly about listening to the music and trying to figure out what that artist is trying to put forth, and you try to visually tell that story as well.
What is art to you? I feel like art is very hard to define because it means different things to so many people. But, for me, it’s just an expression of oneself that they are feeling confident enough to put out into the world. I wouldn’t say there’s a lot to it, walking across the street can be art if somebody is doing it with the intent to show other people.
What message do you try to convey through your dance? I try to stick to more hopeful pieces, it’s such a crazy time in our world right now. There’s so much hate and I try to focus on uplifting and hopeful messages. I would say I just try to convey a message if anything.
Do you think the Tacoma art community right now is representative of who is creating art? Do you think it’s an inclusive space? Yeah, I think it’s a really small space, and it’s hard to break into it and really get involved. Most of the artists I know outside of my school are really involved in the Seattle art scene. But, the people I know that are in the Tacoma art scene are super welcoming and super inviting. I think it’s a very small group and the outreach that’s being done is very new in Tacoma, so I think it’s getting bigger, and it’s been really cool watching that happen. I just think it’s really small right now, but it’s definitely inclusive.
Have you found it difficult to put yourself in the art scene and to discover your own talents? Yeah, I think it’s really hard coming from Olympia to Tacoma. I left a lot of the Olympia connections from the art scene I was in at the time. So, I’ve been trying to find it and I think I found my niche this year and where I belong in it. I’ve danced my whole life, my mom is really into art so I grew up with it. So when you see people who didn’t grow up with art around them and they’re just starting to discover it, it’s important to support them and help them explore more.
How has dancing helped you? It’s so cliche, but dance really gave me a purpose. I have a really hard time in school, paying attention and being interested, just because math and science aren’t really my thing. But, dance has always been something that I feel like I can focus on, and no matter what I’m doing it gives me something to work toward and get validation from it.
Watch out for applications to be part of the Teens In Tacoma Collective soon!
What is your advice to students who don’t have the privilege of going to a school that supports them?
I’d say that asking-and just being in public, in general, and you’ll start to notice or hear conversations. And, just making sure that you’re out in public all the time and try to be a part of the community. [It] will help you do any of your art successful[ly].
What do you consider to be music?
Music is abstract, it’s whatever noise makes you feel something. But I don’t think that screaming is always music. I guess that’s my answer, just noise that makes sense to you. It doesn’t have to make sense to someone else.
How did you start music?
I just started playing piano by myself in third grade, just messing around. Then I took guitar lessons in fifth grade, and from then it’s just been figuring out whatever I feel and doing whatever since then.
What genre is your favorite?
I think it just depends on the time of day and the mood. Of course I listen to what I play, which is indie-rock type of stuff. I also listen to a lot of jazz, and… I enjoy all types of music. You have bluegrass, jazz, rock, indie-rock…I don’t really like classic rock, that’s the only thing I don’t really like [laughs].
“Music is abstract, it’s whatever noise makes you feel something.”
Are you a solo artist or are you in a group?
It’s kinda both. I have my own solo thing but even that is with a band. I’m in quite a few others with friends.
How many bands are you in and what are their names?
Bath Toys is the most obvious answer, and then I have my own group which is Fantastic Fogman. And, then my friend Christian’s group, which doesn’t play a lot, is Baja Boy. [Christian] He’s the drummer of Bath Toys and then I play bass in a band called Slog, with Zach. And, then I have a band with my friends Croix and Christian where I play bass and sing, and that’s Heathers Sweater. Then, my friend Peter and I, we rarely do things, but we have one [a band] called the Six String Guitar Fish.
What type of music do you cover?
In these specific bands…Bath Toys is indie-rock type deal, very modern. Fogman is more folky and jazzy, but also rock sometimes. And Heathers Sweater is kind of, like acid rock, like Black Sabbath kind of stuff, and Slog is just a hardcore punk band. Six String Guitar Fish is more folky. And then I play bass in general, so I play jazz gigs occasionally, and just playing bass for random people too.
Describe playing in a band in three words.
What’s the difference between being solo and being in a band?
I think that when you’re doing things by yourself you may still feel like…The ‘arg’ is supposed to be like anger and ‘wow’ is amazement, and ‘cool’ obviously means that it’s cool. So, you feel all of those being solo and in a band but when you’re in a band its [emotions] are very noticeable and tend to be more outward because you’re with others. But, if you’re by yourself it’s more internal thoughts.
We interviewed another musician. He’s a solo artist and in a band. He mentioned that being solo means you feel your own emotions, and when you’re in a band you feel everyone else’s. Is that true?
Yeah, I think that’s true. When you are a solo artist, even if you are playing with a band, you’re usually directing everyone and the songs are much more personal. So, when I play in my solo band I definitely feel more of my own emotions. And, when I play in a band and I’m playing, like, Zach’s song, it’s definitely feeling more of his emotions.
Why do you continue to do music?
I kind of said this earlier with what being an artist means, I write songs and music to try to figure out my own emotions. Whether that’s writing a song to try and figure out how I feel… a lot of times I won’t really figure out the song that I’m writing until months later, and then I can better understand my emotions. Or, I’ll switch instruments. Playing drums gets out a different emotion than guitar. Or, I started playing clarinet a little bit ago because I thought guitar had gotten boring, so I just try to apply different types of music to try to figure out myself.
What do you define as art?
I think art is just…any sort of expression of the soul. That’s a simple way to put it.
How have you been able to share your art with others?
This also goes back to a question earlier, just being involved with the community. You need to do that to share your art. Any sort of community, like I said, just getting out of your house but, being in a community online, following artists on instagram, or making tags on your Bandcamp. You have to be involved. It’s very uplifting and helps a lot with art.
Do you have a place in Tacoma that significantly supports teen art?
I think as far as music goes, Real Art, is an obvious one. They really support teens, and everyone because it’s an all ages venue, but especially teens because it’s a really good beginning place to go if you’re in a band and just getting started. Also King’s Books, there’s a lot of shows there that I’ve gotten to be a part of too, where I can do visual art and music.
“I think art is just…any sort of expression of the soul. That’s a simple way to put it.”
How can teenagers or others help expand the art community in Tacoma?
I think reaching out. Also it’s a different kind of being part of a community, instead of just being in a community for yourself, being in it for others.
Why is it important that Tacoma supports teen artists?
Because, we are building the future and art is the most important thing.
Do you have plans for what you’ll do in the future?
I think I’ll just continue to figure myself out. Maybe I won’t be a musician, maybe I’ll end up making hella t-shirts. But, whatever happens I’ll always be doing art. By either staying in Tacoma and recording a lot and/or touring, or maybe I’ll just be a studio musician living in LA, and that’s the last of my hopes. But if that’s where it takes me, then that’s where it takes me. Wherever I find myself comfortable to keep doing my art, then that’s what I’ll do.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
It was one of those accidental things, I definitely had a thing for art. Like in elementary school I was drawing. And then in middle school, I got in that photography stage. It was the eighth grade was where I was like, yeah I’m really set on photography. But it wasn’t til ninth grade when I got accidentally placed in a film class and it was something I couldn’t switch out of, and I was like,” That’s so dumb! Why am I here?”, when I was supposed to be doing photography but ended up taking the course and I loved it! But then I saw there were more aspects of being a director, or photographer. I found this book at the back of my classroom. It was Screenplay writing for Dummies. I kind of read it, highlighted text, everything. And then I fell in love with the art of creating a movie I guess.
When would you say your creative process started?
I’ve always been a creative person. Maybe throughout my elementary years. It’s just something that I’ve been told that I was, and I liked hearing it. Definitely those early in ages.
What are your plans for your next moves?
So I’m moving to Germany in September, something I like to talk about. And I’m interested in going to their MET FILM SCHOOL out in Berlin. Hopefully, I’m able to progress my skills there but people tell me a lot that Screenplay writing specifically is just something you need to take the time to do, and you don’t need school for that. But you know.
Would you consider yourself primarily a photographer or writer?
Good question. I like being called an independent filmmaker, or a screenplay writer. It depends on who I’m talking to because I’ll just switch back between the two of them.
Do you make this work specifically for yourself, or do you want to share it with others?
A little bit of both. There’s something about that satisfaction that you get when you do something and you are proud of it. I’ve had those times just like anybody else where I’m just like unsatisfied with my work. And it’s more so for people rather than yourself, and then there are other times where I’m really proud of myself and I see future in it.
Do you feel like more teens should have the opportunity to share their artwork?
Of course. Totally. We are the next generation so when you have a bunch of people that are willing to do something artistically, why not have that? Because that’s something I don’t see a lot in the earlier generations.
How would you define art?
Art is the person that is doing it. It is a word that you can take within yourself. I’m art. We all are. It’s just a magical word.
Whats the most important thing to consider when creating something?
Definitely staying true to who you are. I’ve learned throughout my years of schooling that people are so quick to guide you in a direction that they think is perfect. But no one knows perfect but yourself. Your definition of perfect is true to you and that’s genuine and I think that’s really important when being an artist.
Walk us through the meaning of one of your favorite works.
I’ve written a film called LOVER. And it’s about someone who is taking this idea of love and discarding it because they’re impatient. And then it’s just going through all the lovely aspects of love, and just totally like. . .I don’t know its one of those things because I’m always in my feelings.
Where do you look when you feel unmotivated?
That’s the funny part when I feel unmotivated I don’t feel like I have anything that I listen to so. I don’t have a favorite director or a genre of the sort. Things that inspire me are people’s sentences and words. And I’m like hey, I can make a film out of that. Sometimes I get the title before I get the story and that’s always helpful. I don’t know it’s just something that always comes to me when I least expect it.
What most excites you about your future?
I’ll be in a totally different community and that’s always exciting. I was told that traveling is an important part of living, and I guess that part, where I get to share my work with other people from different countries, is outstanding. So yeah, I’m just excited for the future and what it has for me.
Do you feel that there needs to be a push towards programs that highlight Teens?
I think stuff like this. When its made by people our own age its comforting and inviting and it’s like hey these people are trying to help is and I think if we had more of these things. Especially if it was student ran its be more easy for people to be not so closed in or introverted when sharing their art.
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.
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!
Do you feel like you have more privilege in the arts by going to Sota?
Oh yeah definitely, that’s why my senior project is to help other students at different high schools that aren’t in SOTA, Sami, or Idea. It’s because I want to help them get the benefits that I’ve experienced all four years. I want to help them experience the art community the way I’ve experienced the art community. And to be able to get their name out there, when I already had a foot in the door as soon as I got accepted into SOTA.
Do you feel like you are more inspired at Sota?
The school doesn’t inspire me, but it is the people there. The people I viewed last year were also illustrators, and I got to see how they drew and what inspired them; seeing their style really inspired me to want to go further. And this year since they graduated, there has not been barely any illustrators whatsoever. I feel like I have been a rut recently so I’ve been trying to find more people to give me that inspiration. Like what to do.
What can you always go back to, that inspires you?
Honestly, I want to say anime. I started drawing pictures of it. I’ve always liked anime so sometimes when I’m bored I’d always go back to drawing that. And there’s Naruto, and doing different styles and whatnot. I love the logo of the 90s. I like how blocky it was; clothes being blocked. It just looks nice. It’s something I put in my work. A lot of my friends tell me my art looks like 90s anime. Stuff like that. I like to do that. Especially how I draw my clothes.
What mediums do you involve yourself in?
I involve myself in traditional illustration, such as graphite and pen, and whatnot. But I’m really into doing marker stuff, like a colored marker. Recently I’m trying to figure out how to blend marker together and whatnot. And I love watercolors; I love it but I hate it. I love coloring in blocks, but once it comes to layering on top of each other and going from light to dark, instead of dark to light it really throws me off. So, I’m still trying to figure that out. Acrylic occasionally, I go with acrylic because of how fast it dries. I hate the long waiting of painting. Acrylic is one of my favorites to go with because you can go from dark to light right away.
Where do you want your art to go?
Dang man, I want it to go everywhere. I was talking to Daniel about it, I’m trying to get into Cornish right nowlike I want to go there so bad because it is basically like Sota. But so much more it feels like a place where I can really improve on what I want to do. I want to be able to make a living off my artwork. I want to be able to support myself by selling my art either through prints, shirt–making, stickers. Either me selling my art to companies as logos, doing commissions for other people. I just want to be drawing, I just want to create something for people to see and to use. In the long run, I want to inspire others the way others inspired me because a lot of my art is a combination of other peoples art. I see something that they do and I try to implement it into my style, but not like stealing. Either the way the strokes look in the drawing, how jagged their lines are, or how sharp they are. And so one day I hope people look at my stuff and are able to say “I want to do what they’re doing, let me add that to my own style.”
“I love the logo of the 90s. I like how blocky it was; clothes being blocked. It just looks nice. It’s something I put in my work.”
What is your favorite piece so far?
It’s this piece I made when I was actually a freshman. So the reason why I’d pick that one is that when I applied to Cornish, you have to make a portfolio you know, so I had to look through my big pieces and all of my sketchbooks from freshman year till now. So when I was a little 14-year old I was a little, a little sad boy. Like I was really emotional. And a lot of that affected my art at the time. So as a freshman I had just moved to Tacoma from Hawaii, I lived in Hawaii since I was 6 until I was 13. It was a complete change for me and 8th grade was such a crazy time over here, the big shift. I actually didn’t want to go to Sota, because it was hard for me to make friends here, I didn’t want to make new friends at a new school. But once I got in I was like I’ll deal with it and make friends.
I wanted to capture the feeling and emotion of that time. Pretty much sad boy vibes. I’m here in a place I’m not used to, I’m just kinda stuck.
How does your culture influence your art?
I don’t think my culture.Well, I’m Mexican, and I don’t think it really is implemented in my drawing that much. I‘d say the only way it is, is because I like the way Cholos are dressed so I draw them a lot. And my middle name is Aztlan. I use it for my Instagram. It’s the name of where the Aztecs came from and I’d say that’s the only place where my culture is implemented into my art. That name is branded on what I draw. The reason why I drew it like that, was because I was thinking of certain types of artist’s brush in Mexico. The way they use the stroke from thin to thick. The colors they use. The whole aspect of that. I was really entranced by it.
What is your favorite artistic event you’ve gone to in Tacoma?
I’d say Teen night, the first one, the first Teen night, because I was actually hired by TAM. I was a portrait artist. That was the first time I was ever paid for my art, and it was the first time I did what I wanted to do. It was also my first paycheck I ever got. It was in November, of 2016. It was great because I was able to draw people and I was making buttons and I remember one of the guys was mad at me because he didn’t want to make my buttons. Phylicia ended up making them for me.That was great. They were inappropriate so I guess it makes sense.
What demographic comes to mind when you think of art museums?
I think of families. A lot of families go to art museums, little kids, and their parents, or people going on dates, old people. I think a variety. But I don’t think about teenagers that much. Teens only go to it if they’re into the art. And if they are doing something that involves art. The majority is families with little kids I feel like little kids appreciate those things the most out of everyone else.
How do you think Tacoma could benefit from the voices of teens?
I feel like with this generation we are a lot more open-minded than previous generations. We are all pretty casual people, honestly, either casual or super intense, but that’s a good mix.I think, a good yin-yang, super casual and super hyped people. I feel Tacoma would really benefit from seeing the different aspects of everyone, a more unified community but also a very diverse one. I feel they are already doing that in some senses but it would be much more if they listened to what kids had to say. If they allow us to show what we can do instead of just seeing us as just teenagers. If there were more Teen Night type events, more stuff like that where teens can come together. Like hey perform for us, and show us what you can do with drawing; draw people if you want, all this and that. I feel Tacoma can benefit from that, Like-minded people with a good sense of heart. I feel like it would draw more like–minded people with a good sense of heart to the city. It [Teen Night] was cool too, while I was drawing at TAM I met some people and they followed me and I followed them. Like I said, it‘s a good place where people can connect with each other, and still be diverse in the same way.