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From February to April, we scheduled a series of trainings to discuss, plan, create, generate, and work towards putting together a convening around a subject that the teens found of most interest: Freedom. This theme came from popcorning a few words/ideas out to the teens to see what would stick, and what content could be created around the topic. Freedom was one that sparked a lot of interesting questions, conversations, and debates. It also looked different for each person in the room, so it felt like a great topic to dissect further with a group of invited teens and educators. The teens chosen to produce this event were from our Marwen Internship, Teen Lab, and Teen Council.
The AIC Regional Teen Convening took place on Saturday, April 29 from 10am-3pm. It brought together youth and mentors from the following organizations:
The event kicked off with a few unique and awkwardly perfect icebreakers that enlisted toilet paper and hand-holding to share facts about ourselves and connect quickly with one another. Immediately following, teens from each organization gave a formal presentation about their respective sites and programs. To wrap the morning session, our Teen Lab member, Meisha Williams, introduced our theme and offered some context for how this came to be.
After some lunch and friendly conversations, attendees were divided into randomized groups of youth and adults to visit the galleries. Through intimate discussions in front of works of art, attendees connected by sharing experiences and began to tackle the concept of freedom through art objects.
In the Surrealism galleries, attendees responded within their small groups to prompts about identity. Some favorites included: What work of art reminds you of a significant memory? What work of art represents your feelings at this moment?
In Zhang Peili: Record. Repeat, attendees responded to prompts reflecting on freedoms we take for granted, freedoms we wish we had, and freedoms being expressed or suppressed.
Returning back to the studios, attendees dove deeper into the topic of freedom, engaging in small group discussions guided by youth-generated questions. From parasite insects, to the pressures of financial freedoms, the group collectively discussed the complicated and subjective definition of freedom and reflected on their values, hopes, and fears for the future of freedom. Some takeaways from the discussion:
Upon leaving, attendees filled out a postcard with 1-2 takeaways from the experience they would like to be reminded of in one month.
The teens worked together to create an event that felt immersive, interesting, and insightful from start to finish. During each training leading up to the Convening we would leave time to reflect on what was discussed, push ourselves a bit further, and leave them with a charge to come prepared for the following meeting. They did not disappoint. With each training leading up to the day of the event and the actually event itself, the teens gained more confidence, excitement, and investment in workshopping through their ideas. This prepared them to facilitate the day of with ease, and enjoy what they had worked so hard on producing for their fellow teens and Youth Educators across the Chicagoland area.