Seventeen local teens have been meeting at the Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts after school, three days a week, two hours a day for five weeks under the tutelage of artist-In-residence Chloe Duplessis and speech and drama teacher Sayeeda Carter.
Duplessis and Carter have melded their energies in a compatible learning environment, which will culminate with the works of the young artists. The teens will perform on stage in the CMCArts courtyard Saturday at 1 p.m. and attendees are invited to the upstairs gallery for the unveiling of ARISE until 3 p.m. The ARISE exhibition will be on display until Feb. 26.
The St. Croix Foundation sponsored the art and theater program along with the ARISE exhibition through the CARE Grant.
Duplessis is a legally blind artist, historian and culture bearer who is committed to creating work that centers history and healing. “She brings to the program over 20 years of experience in intercultural engagement, arts administration and advocacy, and has traveled to nine countries and 22 states in support of her work.” Duplessis gives the teens an invitation to see through the lens of their cameras what they are feeling with their hearts. They learn that editing the photographs will be to their own degree of satisfaction as artists. Their work in the program also led them to digital art and the creation of collage. “Duplessis creates images that illuminate the unforgotten, elevate the unknown, and mindfully address the present. In doing so, she seeks to erode the social constructs that oppress people of color and those navigating disability.”
The program exposed the teens to Black history and works of African Americans who excelled in art and many other areas of life – most of whom they had never heard of before. This was the ‘juice’ that flowed through the veins of the ancestors and had begun to trickle through the veins of these young people as they learned and grew and stretched and expanded in their knowledge of self and self-expression.
Teacher and theater artist Carter has been teaching drama, directing and producing student productions that foster pride in self and give young people the satisfaction of collaborating to achieve a shared goal. “Her training in Augusto Boal’s creative organizing tool forum theater and theater of the oppressed has ignited Carter’s unbridled passion for community work and development.” Carter challenges young people “to develop themselves, especially those cast aside by structural oppression and left for dead by benign neglect.” Carter put in place the brilliance of her students’ black and brown “historical” ancestors as the rallying cry for their growth and development.
She asks them, “If these people, who came before you and looked like you, can thrive despite horrid mistreatment, white terror, and lack of abundance, what gives you the right to shirk your responsibility to become great?”
During the spirited online visit with Duplessis and Carter, two of their teens joined to share their delight in being a part of the program. Homeschooled 11th-grader Alexander
Pahlavan said he was hesitant at first about joining, but is feeling very much a part of the program and is excelling at all levels. St. Croix Educational Complex, 12th-grader Tinyra Khalil fell right into the drama element of the program and recognized her ability to help her fellow teammates in realizing their abilities and meeting their potential.
CMCArts Education Coordinator Jessica Parker White encourages those in the community who wish to see the performance and view the artwork and writings to go to the link provided at the end of this news story and RSVP. There are a limited number of seats available in order to comply with COVID-19 guidelines. White spoke to the tenacity of the teens who have been always prepared for the after-school program in addition to their regular school day’s work they do at home. “After being out of school for two years and coming to this program and finding their voice through theater, their writing, and their photography, we’ve seen them blossom, seen real growth as actors and as artists in this short amount of time,” she said. There are other events offered in February for youth and for teens, in-person and virtual, that can be navigated on the website.
And the ancestral juice flows, and they stand tall and they begin to feel the power of their own self-expression through acting and writing and photographing and digital art and collage, and they have begun the journey of becoming one with themselves in an after school program, three days a week, two hours a day, for five weeks. They ARISE!
For more information and to RSVP: