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Passing through

Paintings part of an exhibition to honor the experiences and voices of young people.
By Kate Gridley
Winter 2013 11.4.13

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EJ with portrait 'EJ'

The subject of one Kate Gridley's portraits, EJ. (© 2013 Kate Gridley)

Each of the seventeen subjects of Passing Through: Portraits of Emerging Adults, 17 Oil and Sound Portraits has spent time in my home for one reason or another, from my sons to some of their friends, to members of a youth group that my husband and I run at our church. They range from an eighth-generation Vermonter; to our Fresh Air Fund son who spent ten summers with us; to a young man from Germany, whom we hosted through American Field Service for his junior year of high school; to the girl down the street who was valedictorian of my son’s class; to a young man who came from Botswana for college and needed a place to be for summers and holidays; to a young composer, whom we’ve known since he was two. Our house is in the middle of town, and we’ve always had an open door. Kids come and stay; we cook together; they crash in the living room if it is too late to drive home.

[See the two portraits that appeared in the Winter 2013 UU World: Meg and EJ.]

For me this work is about our first UU Principle: to honor the inherent worth of every individual. Frequently our culture marginalizes adolescents and young adults (especially those from lower socioeconomic brackets). Folks talk about how important it is to listen to them and to mentor them, but when it comes to actually doing that there is not much follow through.

My whole point has been: let’s honor the voices of young people this age. What matters to them? What are they thinking about? What are their passions? What are they facing? What can we do in communities to prompt and share stories?

In addition to the seventeen oil portraits, the exhibit includes sound portraits created from interviews, and, in some cases, mixed with music chosen by each subject. The audio is available in the gallery through cell phone technology as well as on the internet. The installation is scheduled to travel through New England and will be used as a springboard for activities in each community where it is exhibited, through the schools and through arts organizations, story-telling workshops, parallel art exhibits, and performances.

The exhibition will be on display at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington, Vermont, January 10 through April 14, 2014.

This article appeared in the Winter 2013 issue of UU World (pages 20-21) with two illustrations, Meg and EJ. See sidebar for links to related resources.

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