At sixteen years old, I am growing familiar with the challenge of trying to figure out where I fit. As a young artist, I question not only where my piece is best placed in the puzzles of school and friends, but also how I may be of value to the greater artistic community. I just returned from summer arts camp, a unique place where young musicians, actors, dancers, writers, and more were immersed in our crafts and encouraged in our work. We were surrounded by caring and empathetic faculty, always eager to offer guidance and simply serve as sounding boards to discuss future plans. Throughout these six weeks, I saw my peers shine onstage and off. We savored every opportunity to discover more about ourselves as artists and more importantly recognize our true worth as humans.
As someone who has been described as “a thirty-year-old in a teenager’s body,” I was delighted to find that there were, in fact, other teens that long for personal growth not quantified in Instagram followers. A cast bonding experience halfway through camp revealed the extent of this, as we spent an evening being our most open and vulnerable selves. We spent over three hours sharing and listening. No texts were sent nor were any pictures posted. We simply sat and talked.
Fortunately, my camp experience was far from the first time I felt validated as a young artist. Unfortunately, I now realize that my joyful integration back into my artistic community isn’t the case for everyone. I have been blessed with incredible family members and mentors who see me as the person-in-progress that I am, encouraging me on my journey rather than dismissing my efforts as youthful illusions. On the final days in our collective safe-haven, it saddened me to see some of my peers seem to feel that they would have to wait another year to feel appreciated as artists and sometimes as humans altogether.
I write this to express how much we, the young artists of the world, treasure every ounce of support we receive both on our creative and personal journeys. While entrenched in the typical tumult of high school, we are testing the waters artistically, mustering the strength to be our most vulnerable selves while constantly dealing with rejection and critique, perhaps the two scariest words to any sixteen-year-old. Support comes in many forms; it can be as simple as a desire to learn more about our artistic aspirations while helping us develop other strengths in the classroom. I had a math teacher who made my day by explaining algebraic concepts in a way that made sense to a visual learner like me. By meeting us where we are on our journeys and recognizing our unique gifts and challenges, you make us feel validated and respected as individuals.
My camp experience showed me that there is a teenage world of ambition in which connection outweighs technology and support replaces comparison. I truly hope that you find an opportunity to witness the work of teenage artists and be inspired as I was this summer. I thank you for taking the time to read my words. (See, you’re supporting a young artist already; it’s not that hard!)
Have a wonderful day!