About 50 local high school students gathered downtown Friday for an unusual workshop that could have been called “All I really need to know in life I learned from doing graffiti.”
Start with an outline. Fill in the details. Fix the mistakes. Work together. Step back and admire the results.
“You can’t short-cut things. There’s a certain level of discipline to it,” the local graffiti artist who goes by Asphate told the group. “You’ve got to set yourself up for success.”
The graffiti project on a train car-size wall in the Des Moines Social Club courtyard was one of a handful of hands-on art activities at the third RunDSM Teen Summit. The two-day event organized by students in the Des Moines Public Schools’ Urban Leadership program encourages their peers to raise issues that concern them — racism, sexism, violence, social injustice — and then brainstorm solutions.
About 200 students from all the Des Moines high schools gathered for various town hall sessions titled “The N Word,” “White Privilege” and “Media Influence on Society,” among others. Afterward, they split up to put those ideas into spoken-word poetry, photography — or spray paint. The mural took shape over the course of an hour, first with a basic outline, then with jumbo turquoise letters that spelled TEEN SUMMIT.
Jaihon McCaleb, a North High School sophomore, stepped away from the mural for a moment to explain that the activities teach participants how to “be free,” how to “be comfortable and be yourself.”
Roosevelt High School senior Zakariyah Hill went to a morning session titled “Confidence in Color: Knowing and Embracing Your Roots” and said she learned about “our history, our roots, and then how to express that through art.”
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