Teen Interview #24

Charles Coffen, 16.


How did you start doing art?

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

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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.

Go Follow Charles on Instagram @Charles_Coffen !

Teen Interview #23

Michaella Amamilo, 18.


So where do you go to High School?

Steilacoom High School.

So how have you become an active member of the art community?

I’ve always been an artist my whole life. My dad used to be an architect too, so it’s always been a part of our family. I don’t know– I think I’ve always been creative when I was younger, but I do like a lot of arts and crafts things. I’ve never gotten into a strict discipline of art. It was only recently that I got into high school that I started focusing and really understanding what I do like about art. [And] which art history aspects I do like and I try to incorporate that into how I do art today.

What attracts you the most in terms of things, like art history?

I like a lot of antiquity and ancient Greek and Rome; all that stuff. I think I like the human form too and that’s also why I’d like to go into medicine. I just like to put everything together; [I like] little detail stuff and really realistic things. I like that it pays a lot of attention to really natural things and it doesn’t have to be something super crazy and abstract but can be really simple.

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So with your piece that you put in our art show, would you say that it is an adequate representation of your art style?

I’d say it is a really good representation of where I’ve come because my art style is pretty realistic and very fine detail. But that is something so out of my element; like I used ink. And I normally just set things out and have a plan to what I want to do. But with that, I just went for it, and so I think it is a good representation of my growth as an artist.

Do you have a major theme in all your art pieces?

Well, that was part of a concentration. I’m in AP studio art and my concentration was, what it means to be masculine, and what it means to be a man. So I just focused on how people view men as having to be masculine or having to have a big family and take care of a family. I had also just watched this documentary about South Africa with my parents so I did that after. It honestly made me cry so I just wanted to make a couple pieces about that.

I’ve always been an artist my whole life.

What specifically moved you about the documentary?

I think it was just like, even in a really hard time, that people still come together and try to have a good time. They were in the middle of a hard time, especially with Nelson Mandela going to jail and their liberties and freedoms as human beings were just being suppressed. It was really unfair. I’m pretty moved by a lot of things like that but I don’t really voice it so that’s why I use art to portray how I feel about certain things.

Would you say that diversity in art is important?

I think it is really important. Personally, I don’t feel like anybody’s art is bad or anybody’s is a failure. You don’t really know who the person is or what they like or what inspires [them] to make art. If we didn’t have diversity in art then we wouldn’t be able to find people that we like or find inspiration. There are so many famous artists that I feel like people look up to but it’s not always going to be the same. That’s why we all don’t have the same art style. One artist isn’t the same as the other person; that’s because we have so much diversity. And I think it’s important to be yourself and to have your own style even if it is someone or someone else’s. There will always be something that you do differently or something someone else doesn’t do.

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What media have you found yourself enjoying the most?

I generally use a lot of graphite and charcoal, which I got into recently. They’re both pretty easy for me because I’m pretty good at blending and it helps me use shadowing easier. I just got into colored pencils which are a lot harder; because I realized that it’s not just yellow with black over it for a shadow. It’s different shades of that same color. I have been challenging myself a lot with that, painting as well.

Are you involved in your school art community?

Well, there is an art club but I didn’t really know about it. I’ve been in my school district my whole life. but in my freshman year I went to a different school so when I came back I only took Art 1 because I didn’t really know any of the art curricula at the school and I took that my junior year. This year has been the first year that I have actually been able to take a real art class at the school, like I’m in AP Studio Art. I think that’s the art community I’m in and I’ve also been in the school’s art show twice.

Is your school good about making sure that art is available?

Yeah, they’re trying a lot to introduce a lot more media and different classes. It is kind of hard because my school does have a lot of athletics. But now that there are younger generations coming in actually wanting to do ceramics and AP Studio art and design, it is a lot easier to get the art department more recognition and more resources for what we want to do.

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Have you experimented with any other kinds of art besides drawing and painting?

I’ve tried ceramics before and that was nice, I was pretty good at it. I’d love to work with sculpture I think that’d be pretty cool, especially making human bodies.

It seems like that would work with what you’re interested in.

I’m a very visual learner so it would work in a lot of ways.

You said that you wanted to go into medicine, right?

Yes, I want to be a surgeon.

Do you plan on incorporating art into your future?

Yeah, I was considering minoring in art because I don’t want it to just be a hobby or a passion and it has benefited me a lot after doing so many sports. It has been a different part of me and I have appreciated that and I want to keep doing that as I go to college to help me grow. I have seen so much growth in myself just in the last year from this class and I don’t feel like I want to stop now at all.

You said you don’t want it to be a hobby. Are you planning on being a doctor?

Yes, I am. But retirement-wise I will probably be an artist.

What are your favorite pieces that you have made so far?

I did this big piece called “The Pattern Within” but it took me a long time to go back to doing what I normally do, with like graphite. When I did this one it made me stop and actually make time to make something, make something that I normally do. With the blending and having to make time to focus on proportions it made me fall back in love with everything.

Do you think art is a major release for you, almost therapeutic?

Yes, and I think there are a lot of different ways to have therapy, at least for me. I am pretty busy and play a lot of sports and in the sports aspect it is more like, “I’ve had a hard day at school or month or week,” so I am just going to play sports and give it everything I’ve got. But with art, I can just relax and focus on what I’m doing with my hand. It is a lot easier to relax that way.

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Since you have so many activities going on what else influences your life?

My house actually. My dad is from Nigeria and has painted the entire inside and has completely landscaped our entire backyard. So I think I take a lot of inspiration from my house and it inspires me a lot to go out and create. Of course, I spend a lot of time procrastinating and not wanting to do homework ever, so I love to just go and start drawing something. My friends also inspire me to go draw as well.

Your dad is an architect and a big portion of that is art, do you think he has imparted anything to you?

Yes, I think so. He used to live in Italy at a time and we have a library in our house full of law books because my mom is a lawyer. That has definitely helped me find a lot of different things that I’m interested in art-wise and what I want to create and what inspires me to create more. He is always there to tell me that there are so many things you’re capable of creating and so many things to create, so it is easy for me to be motivated by that.

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Where else do you find your inspiration?

This seems so cliche because I normally don’t try to draw for meaning but I do the opposite just for the fact that I feel like so many people say, “I drew this because I was happy,” or, “I drew this because I was sad,” but I drew this because I wanted to. I try to draw and be like, you know what, I am just in that mood and sometimes I just draw after a long time of feeling a certain way like I just need to get it across. I have one of those pieces in the “Breadth” section of my portfolio for this year. It is a heart and something I did differently but I incorporated a lot of mind work on it and I wanted to experiment with that.

Do you have a message for any artists just starting out?

I think anybody can be an artist; that’s probably my biggest message. A lot of my friends feel really intimidated against me. That’s the first thing, to not compare yourself to other people because you don’t know how long they have been practicing and you don’t know what they struggle with. I’ve learned that this year because I don’t have a lot of time to make art but when I do, I sit down and get to it, while other people in my class, that’s all they do. So you can see the contrast and improvement and the skill that they have and the skill that you have. I think that you have to remember where you are and the time that you have and how much dedication you are willing to put for it. I don’t think people should overthink it that much. It is art and it is your art and whatever you produce is as good enough as it is going to be for you and that doesn’t mean it is bad for someone else. I think art is art and you can’t really have a bad opinion about it because you don’t know how they wanted to address the message in it.

Go follow this teen artist on Instagram @michaellaamamilo!

Teen Interview #22

Bryce Ann Hartzell, 16.


So, are you a singer?

Yeah, mostly. I also produce and manage shows.

What bands or groups do you produce and manage shows for?

Mostly my own band; and currently I’m only managing one other group called Gemi. I have managed quite a few bands in the past, though.

What inspired you to get into music?

My uncle actually passed away, and he left me his most prized possession. It was his elevation guitar, and I felt like it was something I needed to learn, because you can’t put something that special into a closet somewhere.

Do you write your own songs?

I do: I’ve taken a few songwriting classes at SOTA and it’s helped me write my own songs but I started writing them when I was about 12 or 13.

What instruments do you play?

I play the guitar, piano, bass… I’m trying to learn the drums, and I play the ukulele, but, not often because it’s an instrument that not many people want to hear anymore.

What type of music are you in to, and what type do you play?

I’m actually into a lot of different genres of music; I like to listen to everything because I feel like you can pull inspiration from everything. I do prefer to listen to rap, indie, and slow stuff like that; and I mostly play indie or alternative rock.

Do you think it’s important to have role models?

I think people wouldn’t be able to shape themselves as authentically if they didn’t have role models. Role models play a big part in kids and teenagers finding who they want to be, and the qualities that they want to possess, along with their views about the world and their treatment of it. Role models also affect kids’ and teenagers’ self-worth and self-treatment.

Who have some of your role models been?

My mom is one of my biggest role models; I feel like a lot of people say that, but she’s just inspired me to be really strong because she’s had to be strong her whole life. But in terms of celebrities or famous people, I have some really strong feminist role models like Halsey, and even weirder people like Mac DeMarco just because a lot of them are carefree and they don’t really care what other people think. And they just do their own things.

Role models play a big part in kids and teenagers finding who they want to be, and the qualities that they want to possess, along with their views about the world and their treatment of it.

Where do you want to take your music?

The dream is to be famous one day; the dream is to be a pop star. Realistically though, I’m applying to music colleges in Europe and I think the route I’m wanting to go is making money off of touring and playing shows. I just want to be able to do what I love and live off of it and be happy with it; to just be happy with my life and my career.

What’s your favorite song that you wrote?

It’s a song that I put on SoundCloud; it’s called Trees. It’s basically like… okay, so I go to summer camp each summer and there’s this counselor there who has just shaped my life so incredibly over the last 4 years. And she has this little tattoo of a tree on her leg, just because she loves the outdoors, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. So, I wrote her that song and it had trees in it and it was really fun and I liked it a lot.

What was the most challenging instrument to learn?

The guitar, because my hands don’t like to do 2 different things at once. I mean, piano does kind of do that but it’s more melodic in a sense because you can look down at it the whole time, while you can’t do that when you play the guitar usually, unless it’s classical. So, just learning how to do 2 different things at once is just really complicated for my brain.

Do you wish you were talented in any other way?

All the time, I mean, I go to an art school so I see all these fabulous people all the time. And even at school dances, I see all these dancers just going at it. And I just think, “I wish I could do that but I’m just not graceful,” or, “I wish I was better at drawing so I could have my art up somewhere.” I definitely wish that there was more than just music for me, but I’m also just really grateful that I even have music.

How has music affected your life?

I think it’s made me more independent. People who do music kind of have to do a lot of things for themselves. Like you have to book your own shows, so it’s made me not only independent, but it’s made me more able to talk to people and reach out and not be afraid of getting turned down because at least I tried. There’s always the possibility that you’ll get turned down, but there are all these opportunities if you don’t get turned down. And so, it’s made me kind of fearless in a way that’s just like, “this is me, and here I am.” If people don’t like it then that’s okay, but if they do, then I want to work with them and do something awesome.

What are you doing now in the art community?

Well, I recently booked a show with Realart, with a few different bands. One of them was actually from Arizona; they were touring and they came up here looking for a venue and I was like, “hey come to Realart, we have a show date already and you can hop in with some of us.” So I’m trying to book even more shows through Realart and other venues.

I actually volunteer at the YMCA, where I help out with things like Healthy Kids Day, where I basically just watch little kids play and do games with them.

Has working with the kids affected your music?

Yeah; kids are really inspiring just because they’re not afraid of failure. I actually have a little cousin and she falls down so much, but every time she falls, she gets right back up and she’s like “I’m fine,” and I just feel like that’s a metaphor for life. There are all these little kids that are so fearless and it makes me think that if they can do it then I can do it too.

Have any of your personal relationships affected your music? If so, how?

Yeah; I actually have an ex who I was in a band with, and when we broke up, the band basically broke up. And I think I’ve been a bit stupid in choosing to be in a band with my current partner, and it’s fine right now, but I’m always worried that, “if we break up then the band might break up?” Or, “will we be able to stick it out for the band?” But eventually that might go sideways, so my romantic relationships have definitely affected my music in really large ways just because of the decisions I’ve made. But also, breakups are really good for song inspiration [laughs].

What is your musical process?

A lot of crying, honestly, and a lot of self doubt. I’ll even write one line and think it’s not good enough, and then it’ll just spiral into me thinking that I’m not good enough and I’m not going to get anywhere. A lot of the times, it takes a few days to get yourself out of it and be like, “okay, you’re fine, keep writing.” The musical process for me is just really hard; it’s filled with a lot of anxiety around it about whether it will be good enough or what people will think. In the end, though, I just end up coming to terms with the fact that some people won’t like it. That’s how it’s always going to go. There are famous people who have people who don’t like their music. You just have to accept that and if you like it, that’s all that matters.

Do you make music for yourself or for others?

A little bit of both. Usually when I’m writing my music, it has a lot of meaning to me. There are lines that are seemingly not much to anybody else, but to me they mean a thousand words to the person I’m writing it to or the situation I’m writing about. So my music is a really good outlet for myself, but I definitely do consider what other people like and enjoy when I’m writing it. If I make a song too complicated or too simple, I feel like there will definitely be people who fall off the ends because they aren’t entertained or because there’s too much going on and they get too much in their head. I think you have to have that balance, to be a successful artist.

Do you have an ending statement for anyone who is afraid to spread their art?

The worst that can happen, is people won’t like it; but in all reality, that’s not even that bad. As long as your art makes you happy, that’s all that matters.

Go Check out Bryce’s social media on Instagram @bryceann.music and @bry.hartzell!

Teen Interview #18

Dominick McCluree, 18


Where are you from and what do you do?

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.

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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.

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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.

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Watch out for applications to be part of the Teens In Tacoma Collective soon!

 

 

Teen Interview #16

Brook Jones, 17.


What school do you go to?

I go to stadium.

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.

‘Arg,wow, cool.’

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.

Make sure to come to Teen Night!

Follow Brooke @bonkuskat on Instagram! And make sure to come to our Art Show on the 19th at TAM!

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 #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 #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 #9

Syierra Shandle, 16


 Why did you get into art?

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.

 

Read Syierra’s work here: LOVER

Want an interview? Go here to apply!

Make sure to save the date for our April art show at Tacoma Art Museum April 19th 6-8pm, submissions and more info coming soon!

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.

img_0345

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!