Art House: Listening to Teens


A few years ago, I did an art project that involved interviewing Max Hayes High School students. I made this connection through the art and shop teachers. Individually and as a group, I asked them to talk about what they liked and disliked about the city, what their ambitions were. The art room environment made them feel comfortable and open. They agreed and disagreed where it was safe and not safe to go. They questioned the logic of demolition as a solution to urban blight and discussed practical solutions to real problems. Underlying the volley of light-hearted banter and outright jokes ran a blade of insight regarding boundaries, race, politics, and human nature.

This footage was combined with other footage of Cleveland history, contemporary views, and the hum of a thriving city. Another high school teacher who experienced the installation quietly stated, “This is really important. No one listens to teenagers, but they know. They see it.”

A tangential story? Perhaps. The space that art creates does empower people—children, youth, adults—to act, to make, to effect change. Impact goes both ways. The results aren’t always immediately apparent. Rather, they unfold over time.