Nationally Acclaimed Community Art Project Comes to Colorado State University

Colorado State University will host an exhibition by YA/YA, Young Aspirations/Young Artists, an organization of inner-city adolescent artists that has won international recognition.

YA/YA is a community art organization in New Orleans that gives disadvantaged youth an opportunity to create art and gain entrepreneurial skills by exhibiting and selling art. "YA/YA: A Retrospective Exhibition" will open Feb. 1 and run through March 5 at the Hatton Gallery in the Visual Arts Building at Colorado State. The exhibition will include a gallery talk by three YA/YA artists and a staff member at noon Feb. 4. A reception for the artists will run 7-9 p.m. Feb. 5. Both events will be in the Hatton Gallery and are open to the public.

YA/YA’s work has been featured in national and international exhibitions, including shows in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, San Francisco, Paris, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Switzerland and Italy. YA/YA students have appeared on Sesame Street and have been commissioned to create work for clients including Swatch Inc., New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, MTV Networks, Burger King, New Orleans Opera Association, McDonald’s and the Urban League. The exhibition at Colorado State will be the first retrospective exhibition of YA/YA’s work.

"YA/YA has become a model for many community-based art projects," said Linny Frickman, Hatton Gallery director. "It is an outstanding example of how self-expression through art can help to boost self-esteem and inspire young artists to learn the necessary skills for successful careers."

YA/YA began in 1988 when artist Jana Napoli started a collaboration with art students from the Rabouin Career Magnet School, a vocational high school in the central business district of New Orleans. YA/YA strives to provide artistically talented inner-city youth with the means to become self-sufficient professionals. Participants in the program make art in the studio after school and learn accounting, technical writing and public relations skills in the YA/YA gallery and business office. YA/YA stresses the importance of education and encourages participants to go to college by offering incentives for good grades and assistance with homework, college applications and portfolio development.

A pilot program started last fall by Colorado State’s art department is modeled partially after YA/YA. The after-school program is designed to allow elementary students to create art and improve academic skills in the process. The program, called "It’s a Gas!" is directed by Colorado State faculty members Frickman and Patrick Fahey and serves about 30 students at Garfield Elementary School in Loveland. The children meet twice a week for collaborative art-making sessions currently led by art teacher Valerie Lloyd. Colorado State students enrolled in a service learning seminar called "Art, Diversity and the Community" assist the children with art projects as well as with academics, homework, and reading.

"It’s a Gas!" participants will take part in a workshop with visiting artists from YA/YA at Garfield Elementary School. Participants also will visit the YA/YA exhibition at Colorado State.