Empowering Youth Creativity

Empowering Youth Creativity

IBA’s End-of-Cycle Artist Showcase

Dedicated to helping young people explore their creative skills and develop their leadership potential, the IBA Youth Development Program is proud to celebrate another successful cycle with an evening of poetry and visual arts. This May 12th, the community will enjoy a special showcase featuring work created by our students. With pieces that delve into the impact of gun violence, the event is an opportunity for you to support our young artists and discover the next generation’s views on such an important topic.

As a sneak peek into the upcoming event we interviewed Zaniah Lender, a young artist who shared her experience of how the program empowered her to tap into creativity. Zaniah’s poetry and art both focus on imagining a world without violence, as she highlights the importance of listening and understanding one another to create safe spaces for all.

The Creative Process

For Zaniah, everything started with support from her peers – the circle, as program participants call it. When the teens first started preparing for the end-of-cycle performance, Zaniah felt very nervous. The topic of gun violence felt close to home, and writing about it was personal.

“There's a lot of violence in our community,” Zaniah shares. “It’s everywhere. It’s messy and it’s a lot of emotions.” But opening up to the other youth gave Zaniah the confidence boost she needed to unleash her creativity.

“Once everyone gets comfortable and they feel the vibe, they all like to be helpful,” Zaniah says. Getting feedback from the group felt honest and collaborative. Especially when sharing work that was still in the drafting process, the creative partnership with others allowed Zaniah to integrate her peer’s feedback and think of ways to improve her poetry.

But the creative process didn’t end once the poem was completed. After writing this piece, Zaniah felt inspired to create visual art to go along with her poetry. There was a mental picture of a safe place that lingered in her imagination. “After reading the poem a couple of times in my mind, I just pictured a specific place. I began to reimagine what community safety looks like,” she remembers.

“Certain words in my writing helped me translate my ideas into a visual piece,” Zaniah explains. These words were gun violence, community, and mental health. And so, her visual piece took form as she created a piece that shows the world what life could be like without any violence.

Finding Your Voice

Talking about communities not being heard was an important part of Zaniah’s artistic expression. Through her work, she hopes that people become more accepting and that audiences see why we all need to be more understanding of each other.

Listening without judgment is a concept that resonates with Zaniah. “I feel like everyone knows there’s gun violence, but nobody knows why. We don’t understand why shooters are shooting. We don’t understand what they’ve been through or what they grew up around,” she reminds us.

This is why the young artist also included a microphone in her visual piece. The microphone is there for people to go up on stage and share their thoughts freely, without interruptions. At the same time, the microphone is also there to encourage listening.

“This is important to me because I feel like listening is the one thing everyone can do to help the world,” Zaniah shares. “I hope that my piece inspires the audience to listen and be understanding, to respect one another and to treat people how you want to be treated.”

Focusing on the Solution

As Zaniah points out, “gun violence impacts the whole community. Kids can’t play outside like they should be able to, or you can’t go to certain places because of the violence there. It’s not fair. It’s harmful to everyone’s mental health.”

For this reason, Zaniah prefers to create work that lets others see the possibilities. She feels that there’s enough depiction of violence already. Instead of focusing on the problem, her artwork is meant to help viewers imagine what a safe space looks like and how a peaceful environment feels.

Confident that listening is the key to safer communities, Zaniah hopes that her poem and painting will spark conversations that create a better world for all.

Join Us to Support Our Young Artists

The IBA Youth Development Program is a valuable resource for young people like Zaniah to express themselves through art and performance. It’s a testament to their personal growth and the goals they hope to achieve.

We look forward to celebrating these dedicated artists with you from 4:30 to 7pm on May 12th. Join us at the O’Day Playground for beautiful performances and inspiring artwork created by our next generation of talented youth.