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YouthCare and Urban ArtWorks partner to create 90-foot mural

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Photo courtesy of YouthCare
Photo courtesy of YouthCare

On June 14, YouthCare, in partnership with Urban ArtWorks, unveiled the 90-foot mural standing at the site of its upcoming Constellation Center in Capitol Hill. The young student artists in Urban ArtWorks' mural apprentice and base crew programs gathered with others in West Hall, donated by Century Ballroom, where they discussed their process and what they learned while creating the mural together.

Photo courtesy of YouthCare  

The mural, which features themes such as nature, community, and alien cats, was planned and created over eight weeks by the students in conjunction with Urban ArtWorks' teaching artists.

"We could not think of a better way to celebrate all that is to come on this site than by having the young people of our community paint their creative vision onto the corner that will house new pathways and new supportive connections for youth," said Degale Cooper, CEO of YouthCare.

"We are honored to partner with Urban ArtWorks and their team, who work powerfully to elevate youth art and nurture the creative drive of young people. These murals are for all of us in Capitol Hill and are a testament to the passion we hold for our neighborhood and what we can collectively bring to it."

Amanda Hashagan, the executive director of Urban ArtWorks, said, "We are grateful to partner with YouthCare and Community Roots Housing, who do such important work to keep our young people safe, housed, and engaged in growth opportunities. These Capitol Hill murals represent the power of the community. It shows what can happen when individuals and organizations come together to create something greater than the sum of its parts. It serves as a reminder that when we unite, we can bring about positive change and nurture an environment where everyone can thrive."

Image capture: Nov 2022 ©2023 Google  

The new Constellation Center is being built in partnership with Community Roots Housing and will further expand the reach of YouthCare's services, which include housing, community engagement, early intervention for at-risk youth, employment, and education programs. YouthCare's mission is "to end youth homelessness and to ensure that young people are valued for who they are and empowered to achieve their potential."

Since 1995 Urban ArtWorks — whose mission is "to engage youth, artists, and communities in the creation of public art that inspires connections and honors voices" — has offered the mural apprentice program in order to inspire young people to create public art and to feel more connected to their communities. Through its programs, young artists are mentored by fellow artists, and gain teamwork skills and real-world experience to draw from in the future.

Photo courtesy of YouthCare  

Collaboration and self-expression
At the unveiling event, the young artists were asked, "What did you learn about yourself while working on this mural?" The most common answer was that over the course of designing and executing the mural, they had learned more about the importance of collaboration combined with individual expression. When one artist had an idea, the others would use it as a springboard for inspiration to add it or adapt it to something entirely new.

After hearing from some of the leadership of YouthCare and Urban ArtWorks and the mural apprentice program's teachers, everyone headed outside to take an up-close-and-personal look at the completed mural. There was a Q&A with the artists about the process and design. There were so many questions that the event went on longer than anticipated.

Before the mural, the space, according to photos taken in 2022 by Google Street View, had seen better days. It had been painted over several times with orange and then blocks of gray, presumably to cover up graffiti. More graffiti was eventually tagged over the gray in scrawled letters. So the mural, depicting what could be interpreted as the young artist's vision of community in a far-off future or another planet, is a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

"A thriving neighborhood art scene has the power to provoke conversation and engage the public in a dialogue," said Christopher Persons, CEO of Community Roots Housing. "This mural represents the immense creativity of our community's young people and serves as a herald of Community Roots and YouthCare's exciting forthcoming project."

YouthCare plans to begin supporting at-risk youth and those experiencing homelessness in the Capitol Hill area and to provide much-needed stability to those it serves through meals, shelter, and mentorship.

There are ways that the public can help as well, through volunteering or donations. One of the organization's goals is to get youths experiencing homelessness an apartment eventually, so it accepts donations of housewares. Items can be dropped off at the organization's main office, whether it's an end table you've been meaning to replace or a set of drawers that no longer fits your decor.

For houseware donation drop-off instructions and more ways to help, go to: https://www.youthcare.org/what-we-need-now