The Beauty of Sorenson Unity Center

Sorenson Unity Center is a special place to the students, staff and families here, and it is an important part of the community in Glendale. Many of the students’ claims in our classes refer back to Sorenson and the feeling of ownership they have of this space.

There are many spaces to create art at Sorenson, and all have the potential to reflect the love, community devotion, playfulness and hope for the future that YouthCity students express when developing different ‘claims’. My hope is to fill as many spaces as possible with art!

It is a precious gift and huge responsibility to work with youth, to try and create art that truly reflects the community in a real and honest way. My biggest community art inspiration is artist, educator and community activist Judith Baca. About community art, she says, “I want to produce artwork that has meaning beyond simple decorative values. I hope to use public space to create public voice, and consciousness about the presence of people who are often the majority of the population but who may not be represented in any visual way. By telling their stories, we are giving voice to the voiceless and visualizing the whole of the American story while creating sites of public memory.”

This idea of creating sites of “public memory” is supported by our ‘Claimit!’ framework, and it has been an exciting challenge to not only talk to students about public art, but to also work to empower them to began to think about themselves as public artists and spokespersons for their community. They ARE Glendale, and it is a beautiful place.

Developing Claims

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Students work on building and painting cubes, that they will build into five foot tall towers in which to showcase their developed claims.

In the ‘Claim It!’ project at YouthCity, the younger students have been working on developing their claims. A claim can range from personal to entirely external, from silly to serious. By examining other community members’ claims from various public events from the past several months, students are developing a deeper understanding of what it means to claim a space.

This week, we will examine the different spaces at Sorenson Unity Center that could potentially be home to the student’s ideas for a public artwork based on the claims we develop together. We will also work on claiming one word and create a zentangle design to showcase this word, with an emphasis on pattern, shape and craftsmanship.

‘Claim It!’ launches with Youth City Sorenson

My name is Elisabeth Bunker, and I am one of the community teaching artist for the ‘Claim It!’ project, part of the OurSLC project. I’m working with a Youth City group of younger students, grades 4-8. The project we develop over the next several months will be installed somewhere around the vicinity of the Sorenson Campus and the Three Creeks Confluence with the Jordan River.

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Our classroom at Sorensen Multicultural Center, part of Youth City. Students Dakota, Zack and Fayla work on their claims.

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Dakota gets her markers and colored pencils ready to draw!

The students will spend the next several months working on ideas, artwork and projects based on their “claims”, which is a framework for helping residents of west side Salt Lake City help define their space in many senses of the word.

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What We’ve Been Doing This Summer

Jesus walks into the art room with a quiet respect for space where art is made. I write the prompt on the board: What do you claim in your life? He tells us, he claims his art and that it’s the thing that brought him back to school.

In our weekly processIMG_1146 to ClaimIt!, some students’ artistic dedication and love for the arts has emerged more fully. The ClaimIt! framework recognizes the potential that already exists in students and now allows it to become a mantra. During our classes, we’ve discussed claiming one’s own story, drawings and even recognizing when one’s claims can be false or incomplete about others or themselves. Jesus is just one of the students that has used the language of ClaimIt! to make his art and call upon others to perceive the world through his eyes.

One of the most striking entries in his drawing notebook came through this image and the following thoughtful caption, “If I could claim the world, I would end all lies and I would end poverty and killing–Will you fly or fall?”

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