Since 2011, the “Youth Speaks Out” (YSO) Exhibition has featured Palo Alto teen artists and photographers with creative minds and messages. This past Friday, March 25, was the grand opening of this year’s exhibit. Students answered the prompt, “What it’s like to be me,” through anonymous paintings, writing, photography and sculptures. Over 200 students from Paly and Gunn submitted pieces that are on display at the Palo Alto Art Center until April 12. YSO was created seven years ago with a goal to give students a safe place to express themselves, engage professional artists with students and bring the community together through art.
Freshman from Palo Alto High School Liza Podkamenna appreciates the opportunities YSO gives students. “This project helps teenagers anonymously express what they feel,” she said. Podkamenna did not enter a piece, but enjoyed walking through the exhibit and seeing what her peers had created.
All of the pieces remained anonymous to the public, which allowed students to step out of their comfort zones and reach beyond their boundaries. Sophomore Victoria Baker agreed that the anonymity of the project helped her create a piece that truly embodied what it was like to be her. “It didn’t really matter what I said, or what I painted because people couldn’t judge me,” Baker said.
Students created works on many different aspects of their lives. No two pieces were alike throughout the exhibition, and each student had a unique perspective on their life as a teen in Palo Alto. Sophomore Angelina Ochoa, enjoyed this chance to display her life as a teenager artistically. “I’ve always wanted to express how I feel growing up through art,” she said. “I feel like everyone else wants to express themselves too.”
In response to the series of teen suicide clusters in Palo Alto, hundreds of students have been able to share their life stories through their art. This opportunity to anonymously share and express their feelings has helped teens realize that they are not alone in their struggles. This was the mission statement for the “Youth Speaks Out” artistic movement: to create a sense of community and camaraderie through art.