Author Archives: lauren

C3 2017 Meeting 5: Last Minute Touches

Summary of C3: Meeting 5, Tuesday May 9th, 6pm-8pm
Written By: C3 Intern, Karen Mestizo

At our last meeting, C3ers walked into the MAH bringing their positive vibes with them. Uproaring this energy, Miguel and Kate from California Youth Connection (CYC), did the honors of leading an icebreaker of Extreme Rock, Paper, Scissors. As pairs first started to battled each other for the win, those who won paired up and faced off against each other while their previous opponents became their cheerleaders. In the end, we all joined as one team to cheer on the last victor! After getting everyone excited and riled up, we headed off to the conference room to catch up on the process of the exhibition.

Once everyone was up to date, our lovely Community Engagement Director and Dialogue Catalyst, Stacey Garcia and Lauren Beneuta, introduced more ways members could get involved after this last C3 meeting. You can dive into taking on some of the listed opportunities here. This will include two internships, one which, after collecting feedback from C3 youth group, will include a Youth Program at the Museum.

Before jumping into the nights fun filled activities, artist, Bridget Henry, gave us a sneak peak of the animation process around the project of: bringing to life the experiences of transition age foster youth, while also sparking empathy. The mind blowing creativity and emotional effects of houses sketched out by youth were brought to life.  Soon after, we broke out into groups and got creative!

Advocates got imaginative in a collaborative workshop where they began event planning for the exhibition programs. Some common themes for events included film screenings, lightning talks, pop up museums, and having space to discuss pathways to ending youth homelessness.

Artist, Melody Overstreet, provided the chance for youth to write messages on strips of kitakata paper. It is a space for youth to write how they felt and a space that holds hope for the work and voices of youth. The papers will then be individually rolled up and woven into a larger tapestry, embedded between the layers of visible text.

Other last minute touches added to Artist Elliot Taylor’s piece, the Resiliency Zone, was youth art expression on rocks. The rocks are a metaphor for what resiliency can feel like. Over time, winds grind down the hard surfaces of rocks. Despite this, the solid mineral material holds up and in fact, the winds create a smoother texture. By having youth expression through these smaller art details, an authentic presence of youth will be projected.

In addition to the Resiliency Zone, journals will be added to create a space for visitors to reflect on the exhibitions heavy content. These will offer visitors a first hand experience of anonymous perspectives of youth feelings. C3ers decorated and wrote in journals in respect to their own experiences. Youth were also encouraged to take the composition books home to do some free journaling and return them by the members reception on July 6th. Some topics included:

  • What Resiliency Feels Like
  • My Story
  • After I Turn 18
  • Growing Up Fast

While this was our last meeting, the exhibition process is not over. There are more opportunities people can take advantage of in the link above. Despite this being our last time meeting as a whole group,  we wanted to thank everyone for their efforts and participation as we celebrated some savory cupcakes. Thank you C3ers!

C3 2017 Meeting 4: The Start of Creation

Summary of C3: Meeting 4, Tuesday April 11th, 6pm-8pm
Written By: MAH Dialogue Catalyst, Lauren Benetua

On Tuesday, 4/11, the MAH hosted it’s 4th and second to last C3 meeting. Even though this seems close to the end, it couldn’t have felt more like the beginning. As we kicked off our meeting with a general introduction of Lost Childhoods to newcomers, we got a special sneak preview of the exhibition layout. Seeing the floor plan and being able to visualize where everything was going to land was our first glance at the exhibition moving from concept to reality!

We then passed the mic to Foster Youth Museum (FYM) founder, Jamie Lee Evans. In just 10 minutes, we were taken on a riveting journey from former foster youths’ stories represented by a few of the objects in their collection. Each item in their collection was donated by a foster youth, and serves as an impactful and unbridled extension of their realities of growing up in today’s foster care system. This served as a more intimate introduction into FYM’s signature exhibition which has travelled under the name, Lost Childhoods. Because this exhibition is going to take on new life with Santa Cruz local youth and artists, it was decided that exhibition be more appropriately titled, Lost Childhoods: Voices of Santa Cruz County Foster Youth! More can be read about the history of FYM and Lost Childhoods in Jeanie Yoon’s post on our C3 blog.

Then, it was time to get down to the good stuff: prototyping the artist’s projects!

Scratchboards with Bridget Henry

Bridget Henry asked youth to help her create scratchboards made of images of various homes they lived in. Her work will use scenes and sounds of home life interspersed with animated metaphors from transition age foster youth about their experience. For this meeting, youth were encouraged to bring photos of places they have lived or have considered home to map onto their scratchboards. Once Bridget has enough from the youth, the animation process will begin!

Creating calm with Elliott Taylor

Elliott Taylor gave us an update on the resiliency zone that he has been hard at work developing with youth at each C3 meeting. Though this is still a work in progress, we were able to reach a consensus that building resiliency is by no means a linear path, and once achieved, one hardly ever stays in a mode of quiet and comfort and must go back through hardship through the next chapters of life. With this in mind, his 3-dimensional resiliency zone must also include an area of calm. For this meeting, Elliott asked youth to help him create a mural of sorts that will be divided into sections and artistically reinterpreted by the youth to be blown up to life size and stitched together in the physical installation.

Prototyping reminder bracelets with Melody Overstreet

 Melody Overstreet continues to source ideas that will empower visitors to take small actions. Along with this being represented in her weaving installation that will list reminders around the ‘little things’ that can make big impact, she asked youth to help prototype bracelets that will serve as reminders to visitors and wearers of their commitment to donate or lend a helping hand in some way. We asked youth and advocates alike to continue sharing their action items with us so we can effectively present it to the public, as well as brainstorm how visitors can easily make reminder-bracelets in the gallery as a takeaway.

Recording youth interviews with Nada Miljkovic

Nada Miljkovic has been added as a fourth artist to the exhibition, who will be conducting video interviews with transition age foster youth from Santa Cruz County! We decided this was a crucial element to the exhibition so that visitors will understand that this is a youth-driven project that welcomes and empowers foster youth. During this meeting, youth were given the space to opt-in to an interview and share their stories with their own voices. Nada will continue to conduct interviews at the next C3 meeting, so be sure to attend if you are a youth who would like to share your truth!


Identifying community engagement co-leads

Lastly, I had the pleasure of rounding the advocates into a huddle so we can select and prioritize community engagement plans and events-based experiences while the exhibition is open. The prior C3 meeting left me in a swirl of 100+ ideas on the table, which I was able to condense down to 8 overarching themes. With more of an understanding of these key interests, we were able to identify what else was missing, and most importantly, who would like to be a co-lead with me and the MAH to make it all happen. We identified what our engagement goals were and selected our top 3-5 ideas from each of the 8 larger themes. By the end of the night, we were left with about 15 events for us to all continually work on, together.

Buzzing from the rush of hands-on creativity of the night, we closed the meeting with a unity clap. Though we are nearing our last meeting for this year’s C3, each gathering leaves us feeling a little bit closer, truer, and warmer toward one another. We look forward to the next and last meeting on Tuesday, May 9th from 6-8pm at the MAH!

Lost Childhoods: What It’s All About?

Foster Youth Museum began over eleven years ago as a new training tool to help educate child welfare professionals on what the needs of foster youth were. Since then, the Museum has grown from a simple tabletop display of donated artifacts to a large scale endeavor with multiple exhibitions–our signature being Lost Childhoods.

Photo by Jeremiah McWright, Grace Cathedral 2015. Courtesy of Foster Youth Museum.

Lost Childhoods delves into the tremendous impact youth experience in and out of foster care and the title was meant to instantly convey the impact foster care can and does have. Visitors see what youth experience prior to entering the system, what happens during their time in care, and what happens when they emancipate or age out as teens and young adults. The exhibition, divided into five themes: Developmental Disruption, Institutionalization, Powerlessness, Loss, and Hope and Transformation, takes visitors through the experience from the perspective of foster youth.

Photo by Jeremiah McWright, Grace Cathedral 2015. Courtesy of Foster Youth Museum.

While it was important for us to represent the trauma, loss and disruption foster care and being removed from home can have on youth, it was just as important to us to show what has helped youth overcome these tragedies in their lives. The Hope and Transformation section is the largest of the five themes and the artifacts and photographs show how positive relationships, advocacy, education, travel and other opportunities have played vital roles in the stories of foster youth resiliency.

Photo by Jeremiah McWright, Grace Cathedral 2015. Courtesy of Foster Youth Museum.

Youth tell us that, to them, Foster Youth Museum, is a vessel for healing. We take this responsibility seriously and work hard to tell the story of foster care from a youth’s perspective, with dignity, respect and honor. This year, Foster Youth Museum is honored to be working with the Creative Community Committee (C3) to bring Lost Childhoods to the Santa Cruz MAH and excited for even more stories, particularly of Santa Cruz youth, to be shared with the community!


C3 2017 Meeting 3: A Balance in Brainstorm, Creation and Play!

Summary of C3: Meeting 3, Tuesday March 7th 6pm-8pm
Written by: C3 Intern, Karen Mestizo 

After bringing C3 members up to speed on the last two meetings, artists presented a recap of what their projects will capture and what conclusions have been made about the direction of the physical form (see bullet points below). We then encouraged everyone it would be best to split the group between advocates and former/current foster youth.

Former and current foster youth helped by providing their perspectives on their experiences to better help Bridget and Elliot understand what next steps to take for the projects around creating a visual and emotional experience for visitors. Advocates lent their knowledge on what “little things” would benefit foster youth at Melody’s table, as well as collaborated and brainstormed with Lauren, MAH’s new and eager Dialogue Catalyst, on how to extend the exhibition through community engagement activities. 

Here is an update on the artists projects:

Melody will be creating a project around the Little Things using thread and weaving techniques. Melody worked with the youth to explore what kinds of small actions make foster youth feel appreciated. She will be weaving in strips of papers that have writing on simple ways people can help foster youth. People will be able to grab the strips straight from the art piece. Melody was gracious enough to bring in a prototype of what the project of “The Little Things” could possibly resemble, although she imagines the installation will be a lot larger than in the picture. 

Prototype of Melody Overstreet’s weaving project

Elliott will be building a 3D project around resiliency, and though it is still unclear what the form will take and how the content will be projected, but he was hopeful that the meeting would help guide him to a clearer conclusion. Some questions Elliott asked at the meeting were, “what is resiliency?” and “how do you become resilient?”

Understanding resilience in Elliott Taylor’s project

Bridget introduced us to her artistic stop-motion skills and communicated that her project will take this form along with the content being represented as metaphors. Bridget created an extensive questionnaire that asked questions like, “if hope was an object what would it look like?”; “if your house(s) in foster care were found in nature, what would it be?”; “if the event that put you in foster care was a kind of weather or natural disaster what would it be?”…among many more! Former and current foster youth were free to answer any of the questions.

Video still from Bridget Henry’s stop-motion example

I once again I had the awesome opportunity to be in Bridgett’s workshop. When I began reading the questions, I hesitated to answer. Not because I didn’t want to, but rather because the questions took me back in time and required deep thinking of what my experience was like. As I looked around the table, I also noted my experience was shared as people gazed into the distance deep in their thoughts. Some shared that their experiences resembled a tsunami. The tidal waves were coming in slowly and quietly, but within an instance they were hit with waves drowning them all at once. The questions were a brilliant way of gathering true and delicate experiences for the project’s content around experiences of transition age foster youth through artful storytelling that will also spark empathy.

We ended the night in laughter with a closing activity that turned us into a musical train. Though we can reach deeply into shared personal experiences, it is also important to infuse some fun and play into the mix! Our silly musical beats wrapped up our night, and we can now look forward to our next gathering on Tuesday, April 11th. Click here for more photos of our night together.