All I really need to know in life I learned from doing graffiti

Des Moines graffiti at the Des Moines Social Club. Photo by Regan76 on Flickr, labeled for reuse.

Des Moines graffiti at the Des Moines Social Club. Photo by Regan76 on Flickr, labeled for reuse.

The Des Moines Register, February 26, 2016 by Michael Morain, mmorain@dmreg.com.

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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