By Artist Mentor – Vincent Joachim
I walked, ran, cycled, took various types of transit, and even flew on a dragon while working for Inverted Arts facilitating photography and graphic design to middle school youth at Hope Academy. These modes of transportation are a great metaphor for the style of teaching I use when working with youth through the arts to shed light on issues they face in their community and their lives.
One of my favorite games to play with students is called “Golden Ticket.” It’s a meditation game where they go on a journey in their mind. Students close their eyes and I give them all an imaginary golden ticket. With this ticket, they can go anywhere in the world. They can travel to this place by any mode of transportation they choose like a car, train, spaceship or even a dragon! When they arrive at this place I get them to use all their senses to describe this place in detail. A good piece of art activates people’s senses when they view the creation and I ask the youth to keep that in mind when they are doing photography. Their images can invoke sound, touch, smell, as well as sight. Most importantly I ask them how they feel when they are in their favorite place. The students usually answer that they felt happy, relaxed or at peace. So in times of trouble, I advise them to go to this place to change their moods for the better. It’s the cheapest travel ticket you can get and you can go there anytime.
During the program we talked about what it means to be “made in God’s image.” What does this mean for the way we live, how we see ourselves and how we see and treat others? What about the hardest people in our lives? Even our enemies? We further developed this theme by applying it to our photo project. We walked around familiar surroundings and looked for God’s beauty. We went on several photo walks outside and looked for metaphors and symbolism that we could add to our photos to tell a deeper story. My main goal is not to teach the youth how to be professional artists but how to visualize obstacles and create change in their hearts and community. Change begins with Jesus in our hearts and the arts are great way to communicate this message while building confidence and self-esteem.
I will be traveling to Trinidad in July and August and working with youth at St. Dominic’s Children’s Home. These young people have suffered from severe trauma from abandonment, violence, and addiction. I asked the students at Hope Academy to do a letter exchange with the Children’s Home. These letters are an exchange of hope and encourage each other in their faith journey. It’s a great example for the students to learn from other youth in a different country.
Here are some excerpts from letters written by a youth at Hope Academy:
I live in the U.S.A in a state called Minnesota. I’m going to be in the 8th grade. About a year ago, my Dad got deported and my family is poor. My Dad was the one who provided the money we needed to get food and all our needs, but since he was gone, we had to try to make it on our own…Our family prayed and worshiped God. Miraculously, God always provided and our fridge was always full. Today my Mom is a manager and God helped us.
I live in Minneapolis and I am 13 years old. I have major problems but nothing like yours and I respect that you are still going on with your day. Just always have faith in God and never give up because when you fail you can always try again…Just wanted to say never lose hope because your the best thing out there!
Sincerely a Friend!
I hope this letter will encourage you. I don’t know the hurt that you are going through right now. But I personally know that it is hard. Sometimes I don’t want to get out of bed, because my depression is so overwhelming…I just want to let you know that you are valuable! Also, that Jesus has been rejected and his own disciples abandoned him! So every time you are feeling down, give your problems to Jesus Christ, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7.
You can follow my artistic creations and work with youth in Trinidad at https://www.facebook.com/PhotoLanguage