Youth Insights Introductions Workshop with Sophia Al-Maria
Sep 7, 2016

Teens show off their final projects

YI Introductions participants pose with the artist and their finished collages, July 2016. Photograph by Dyeemah Simmons

Teens in the Whitney’s Youth Insights Introductions summer program participated in a special workshop with exhibiting artist Sophia Al-Maria on July 19. Youth Insights Introductions is a program which invites English Language Learners in grades ten through twelve to the Whitney to explore, discover, and discuss American art, and create original works of art and writing. The collaboration between the YI teens and Al-Maria was especially poignant because much of the artist’s work speaks to her own experience with bicultural identity: Al-Maria was raised between Washington State and Qatar. For nearly a decade, she has examined twenty-first-century life in the Gulf Arab nations through art, writing, and filmmaking.

Students collaborate on a project

Teens work on their collages with Sophia Al-Maria, July 2016. Photograph by Dyeemah Simmons

Drawing inspiration from the themes of commercialism and materialism that characterize Al-Maria’s Black Friday exhibition, the teens created multimedia collages that examined the language of consumption. With guidance from Al-Maria, each participant browsed online stores and selected an item around which to base their collage. The teens then extracted words and phrases from the corresponding product descriptions and combined them with images from magazines. 

A presentation by Artist Sophia Al-Maria

Sophia Al-Maria addresses the YI teens, July 2016. Photograph by Dyeemah Simmons

Dyeemah Simmons, Assistant to Teen Programs, reflected on how adeptly Al-Maria encouraged the teens to speak up and participate: “I initially thought that using the language of consumerism and discussing these complex ideas might be challenging for English Language Learners, but Sophia was, in part because of her own bicultural identity, sensitive to these concerns and able to include the teens in conversation.”

Learn more about the Whitney’s Teen Programs here

By Olivia Horn, Interpretation Intern