Museum of Fine Arts Presents ‘HOMiE: In Our Eyes’ Curated by the Teen Arts Council
The Museum of Fine Art houses the most famous art the world has to offer, from mummies to Monets. But on July 16, the museum will welcome an exhibit with a different appeal. “HOMiE: In Our Eyes” substitutes big names in contemporary art for high school students—all burgeoning artists, and for many of them, this is their first show.
The exhibit celebrates the tenth anniversary of the Teen Arts Council (TAC), a leadership development program for Boston-area teens. Teens in the program take part in the MFA’s creative life themselves, grow professionally, and develop programs targeted at encouraging local teens to engage with the museum. From the annual teen night to performance events, the TAC brings a youthful flavor to liven up the old museum—and this new exhibit is no exception.
Members of the TAC accepted submissions along with artist statements from Boston Public Schools students, and with guidance from mentors ultimately selected the 44 paintings, photographs, and drawings shown in the exhibit. Mentors provided advice and guidance, but it was teen votes that counted. TAC member Danilo Martinez shared that mentors like Lisa Simmons, director of the Roxbury International Film Festival, advised TAC members to look for more than aesthetic value. “Look for a message, don’t just judge it immediately for something that’s negative,” Martinez says.
For teens whose work was chosen, the experience was exciting. Elcie Merck even calls it “life-changing.” “My family, we love to go to the MFA. We love Boston. This is home, and the MFA is a big part of that,” Merck says.
All works draw upon the theme of “home”—how it’s defined, how it influences identity, and how it changes over time. “We wanted the theme to be broad enough for teens to interpret it to themselves, but we also wanted it to encompass other concepts,” TAC Program Director Shilo Kuriakose explains. “Every single interpretation of home was different. So, we have artwork from young people who had to leave their homes and come to America as refugees, we have artwork from young people born and raised in Boston. There are pieces that represent family, culture. One teen is a student athlete, and she talks about how her second home was actually the bus, going back and forth from games.”
Merck’s piece is titled “Black Moms Matter.” She painted her parents at the end of a long day, her dad taking out her mom’s weave. “Home for me is where my heart is and that’s where my family is. My family is an interracial family,” Merck shares. “My dad taking out my mom’s hair—that’s one of my favorite moments.”
In addition to honoring her parents, Merck dedicated the painting to black women everywhere and to Black Lives Matter—two issues very close to her heart. “I want to dedicate this to my mom, her natural hair, everything. Blackness is very beautiful to me, and I wanted to use my stage to convey that message, as well as how important Black Lives Matter is to me,” Merck says. “With everything that’s been happening—that’s always been happening—especially growing up with a black side to my family, having black nephews and nieces and cousins, the idea that at any moment their lives could be taken, police brutality…This issue matters. I’m very dedicated.”
Merck hopes that other dark-skinned black women who are underrepresented in media and in the arts will be able to see a bit of themselves in the painting and relate to it.
For Kuriakose, these messages and personal connections are what the exhibit and the Teen Arts Council are really about. “We want to be a big part of teen’s creative lives and we want to continue to be an asset to the community,” she says. “There are a lot artists who have used their art as a voice, so we try to give that same voice to the teens.”
Many involved with the TAC engaged in that conversation as the exhibit shaped their own way of interpreting home. A poet and a writer herself, Kuriakose took the theme to her own creative work. “That was really a great process for me, to be able to, within the constricts of my writing and my poetry, use that same prompt and create with it,” she says.
Martinez realized that “Home is wherever you feel comfortable. Home is a state… It doesn’t have to be four walls, any of that.”
“HOMiE: In Our Eyes” will stretch personal conceptions of home from July 16, 2016, through January 22, 2017, in the Bernard and Barbara Stern Shapiro Gallery at the MFA. Looking for a more interactive dialogue? Consider checking out the exhibit’s accompanying events, including spoken word and poetry, gallery talks with the artists, and panel discussions.