Over the past four months, 12 Sto-Rox Middle School students have been creating visual art, performance pieces and literary art that gives insight into how they see their McKees Rocks surroundings.
The public will be able to view the student’s art at their showcase titled, “I Come From a Place,” on Thursday, May 12 at 7 p.m. at the Father Ryan Arts Center (FRAC).
“It’ll be a tear-jerking show that will also breathe new life into youth arts education,” said Show Producer Terrance Austin.
The group of students is the first cohort to participate in the new program, Ryan Arts Cultural Experience (R.A.C.E.): the middle school edition. Facilitated by MRCDC, R.A.C.E. connects four of Pittsburgh’s finest artists with students to supplement a Sto-Rox arts education that has lacked funding in recent years.
Vocalist Anqwenique Wingfield, Darrell Kinsel of BOOM Concepts, community organizer Bekezela Mguni and dance instructor Trevor Miles have been working with the participants this school semester to offer a multi-disciplinary, holistic approach to the arts.
“We are allowing the youth to perform, express and create through art,” said Austin who is also the program manager. “We are teaching the students to use art for more than what society shows it can be used for; art can also act as therapy.”
For instance, during Kinsel’s eight-week module on visual arts, he assigned students the writing prompt, “I Come From a Place…” The students then wrote their answers on the FRAC’s windows with markers. Kinsel said the activity resulted in honest answers that showed how factors like “displacement affect how our young people identify home.”
Austin said he’s watched the students become aware of themselves and the world around them over the course of the semester.
Sto-Rox Middle School student Journey Davidson said the program has helped her open up.
“The best part about the program is that I get the opportunity to do this,” she said. “I’m the lucky one and it has been a cool experience that I will remember.”
Austin said he has seen the group of students learn the meaning of resiliency.
“These kids have learned that a great product comes with lots of hard work,” he said.
For those interested in attending “I Come From a Place,” admission will be $5.
The arts program runs every semester and Sto-Rox Middle School students who are interested in participating can sign up to audition by sending an e-mail to School Coordinator Katy Rodriguez, Krodriguez@srsd.k12.pa.us. R.A.C.E. accepts 15 students each semester. Applicants must showcase a talent via video. Cameras are available for checkout at the school library.