Creative Bergen Youth: Inspiring Artistic Activism throughout Bergen County
On June 11th, Creative Bergen Youth, founded by Ashley Park and sponsored by Creative Bergen and Sustainable Jersey, hosted its first middle school art competition on the theme of Climate Hope: Art for Change. For months, the high school leadership team of students across Bergen County planned the art competition, collaborated with art studios and teachers, distributed educational material on artistic activism, collected artwork, and curated the art gallery at the James Rose Center in Ridgewood, in collaboration with professional environmental artists.
Art has an impact on people in a way that's unique in comparison to other methods of communication. It has the ability to connect with people emotionally, unite communities to build solidarity, evoke empathy, and fuel a sense of passion to fight for a cleaner, safer, and more equitable society. While the discussion of climate change is often dreadful and discouraging, art has been my tool for healing and finding hope.
All of these ideas were the inspiration behind starting Creative Bergen Youth and organizing the contest and gallery. The goal of the competition was to encourage environmental advocacy through artistic expression and provide an opportunity for students to contribute to the solutions of the issues they care about and experience the energizing process of creating and sharing a work of art that captures their message.
As 13 students were awarded with a total of $2000 raised through donations from local environmental organizations and sales from Ashley's licensed artwork, hundreds of students and community members visited the gallery throughout the weekend of June 11th. Through the gallery, Creative Bergen gained greater traction and its movement of promoting the arts and culture throughout Bergen County grew.
Creative Bergen will continue to host environmentally themed art competitions to uplift the voices of students who will be empowered to share their stories that advocate for environmental protection and justice.