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voice what matters“Voice What Matters”, the banner above the stage read, and that is exactly what the youth of the Department of Youth Services (DYS) did. From paintings to sculptures, to videos, songs and dance, they showed who they are and what matters to them. This year the DYS held the 4th Annual “Share Your Art, Share Your Voice!” Statewide Youth Showcase on June 16th at the Paramount Center.

Commissioner Peter Forbes delivers remarks

Commissioner Peter Forbes delivers remarks

The motivation for the investment in the arts came about because, as Peter Forbes, the Commissioner of the Department of Youth Services said, “Many of the youth are not happy to be with us (DYS), so we have to try to figure out what they’re interested in and use that interest as a hook for the change process. Many of the youth have unbelievable artistic talent, but they often don’t have exposure to the arts to see that, so this is something the agency put forward”.

The showcase began with an art sale entirely composed of art by youth artists who received the proceeds of the sale of their art. Walking through the display, all around was the excited chatter of the attendees eyeing the pieces they were going to purchase. “They’re going fast” said one onlooker. “I know they always do” said another.

Art on display at the DYS showcase

Art on display at the DYS showcase

Robert Turillo, Assistant DYS Commissioner has attended the event every year and displays the art that he buys in his office, adding four more to his collection this year. As he put it, he buys the paintings because he knows “each youth put a lot into it, and the incredible quality of the artwork. The ones that I buy are the ones that I read the description of and I can see their self-expression. I often buy self-portraits.”

A self-portrait on display and had sold within 15 minutes of the sale beginning was entitled “Purple Stands for Loyalty”, the artist, Kevin wrote in his description “I feel good that I did this self-portrait. Purple is my favorite color.”

Another artist whose painting “Look Closely” was sold described her thought process as being “pretty much everyone has a different perspective, a different eye. For this, trees make me feel calmed down, like I’m in a forest alone.”

Alexandra Chery of the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute

Alexandra Chery of the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute

After the art sale, Commissioner Forbes spoke to the audience followed by Alexandra Chery of the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute whose inspirational words cumulated with 7 principles: love, unity, faith, hope, courage, justice, and forgiveness.

The performances, while entertaining, also highlighted the realities of life. A youth named Xavier gave a powerful rendition of the “Hath not a Jew Eyes?” speech from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, a performance which had the audience in thunderous applause. A story by a youth named Dion described the struggle of reality vs. perception, and what he called the “Levels to this Frontin” meaning what the world sees on the outside is not always what it is truly like on the inside. A group of girls, Jessica, Clarisine, Cheyenne, Zorelys, and Irianis performed a stepping routine with rhythms that resonated throughout the theater.

The arts provided a channel for the emotions and expression of the youths, but it was also a source of pride for those that care for them. Friends came to support the artists who they knew had put a considerable amount of time and effort into producing the art.

Eva Robbins Davies, a DYS Central Region art teacher, was proud of the pieces her students created but even more so of the journey they took to get there.

“You can see the skill level rise and their style develop as they practiced.” said Davies.

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