Rachael Osgood is a teen in our Color Squad Collective, where she helps design and paint murals that address community issues. On May 19, she appeared with Executive Director Karen LaShelle at the Michael & Susan Dell Community Collaborative for Child Health Summit. Below is the speech she gave to attendees.
Stories contextualize the past, present, and future. They are an instrument of thought, a tool to connect us to certain moments in time, and by doing so, create the forms of our world. They are as equally a part of who we are as individuals, as they are what brings us together to create a shared community/cultural identity.
In turn, culture is the intersection between arts and beliefs; spiritual and intellectual expression. The art that different societies create endures past the inked-in-dates of history textbooks. Their imprints are on the rock carvings, the cave paintings, the intimate portraits that now hang in museums, and the photographs we see all around us. They allow us to feel the texture of the world as it is mirrored in the stroke of a brush. And my appreciation for such nuanced forms of cultural/artistic expression is the way that I, as an individual, connect to different stories most deeply.
Becoming involved with Creative Action in their visual arts teen program has allowed a bridge between the personal and the professional. The goal of our program is to create public and community artwork about different social justice issues. Working side-by-side with refugee resettlement organizations, food banks, cultural preservation groups, civic leaders and community activists, I have learned not only the value a voice can have, but also its essential nature to successful civic engagement on a wide range of platforms. My own development, my interest in the power of art, and thus the power of stories, is directly tied to the opportunities Creative Action has provided, and the methods they use for social and emotional learning.
Every year, our program focuses on a different issue. Currently we are working with the concept of immigration but in the past, we have examined a wide range of topics from food insecurity, to gentrification and gender identity. Everyone in the collective is involved in the research, designing, and implementation of the art, and the shared development space aids in the strength of the final product. From art magazines to 800 sq ft murals, it teaches those involved how to deepen their own skills both personally and professionally by working with continuously with others.
Art, creativity and engagement, especially by youth, has the potential to bring about change in a society faster than politics can because of its ability to empower. Artistic expression in any form when used in youth development is a vital tool in enabling the next generation. It allows them, us, to better understand our own story so that we may better understand others. It truly does help us to become collaborators, effective communicators, creative innovators and courageous allies. In short, I believe in the power of art because I believe that art is power.