/ by Sean Beauford

photo by Andrea Petrillo

my next project, Ambition, features 13 students from the Watson Institute: Friendship Academy, expressing themselves through art in a show taking place at LOCAL 412 opening July 1st.

this show came about from randomly (is anything actually random?) meeting a teacher from the school and her telling me about her students. as she told me more about the school and the program, i started to get the sense that a lot of the students had been written off in life by others before enrolling into the Watson Institute, and being embraced by teachers that actually care and give them the support they need.

i feel sort of a responsibility to lend my resources to help the youth, especially those that aren’t always given the best opportunities. as a kid, i was probably one of the worst students ever, not in terms of behavior, just overall. i hated school and school hated me, i always felt like i was written off and given up on. i’ll never forget hearing things like “you won’t amount to anything”, “i hope you fail” etc. from teachers, who besides our parents, are supposed to be the people helping us win in life. it’s lame when teachers intentionally or as a result of losing their cool, try to crush students spirits, and suggest that any ambition on their part is a waste.

for some kids, it’s like they aren’t allowed to be ambitious. too often kids get their dreams shut down with what adults see as logic, but is usually, actually, them projecting their inadequacies onto the child. regardless of circumstance, behavior, or diagnosis, every child has the potential to be a success if they apply themselves and they’re nurtured by caring people.

i wanted to give these students an opportunity to shine, and the freedom to express themselves, which i think is paramount. although i am the curator of this exhibition in that i am organizing it, i’m not curating their art. there’s no good or bad, right or wrong; no ‘this doesn’t work, let’s leave it out’. this show is not about the art. sorry, art snobs. to me, art is not just something reserved for professionals to be appraised and judged (although there’s a place for that). i always thought that art was a vehicle for expression, and something for us to learn from, and gain a better understanding of each other.

as much as i want the world to understand these students, i’m more concerned with them understanding themselves. i want them to know that they can do anything, and that it’s okay to be ambitious.

with that said, it would mean a lot to all parties involved if y’all stopped by LOCAL 412, at 4901 Penn Avenue in Garfield during July’s Unblurred First Fridays. let them know that people care about what they do.