Pop Up Museum with Smith Renaissance Society, California Youth Connection and the Foster Youth Museum

Back when C3 was still in the planning stages for the Lost Childhoods exhibition, our partners at Smith Renaissance Society were buzzing with action. They decided to host their own Pop Up Museum at the Annual Chancellor’s Reception at UC Santa Cruz to celebrate the academic feats of former Smith Renaissance Collegiate Fellows. Continue reading to see how it went.

*This post is also cross published on the Santa Cruz MAH’s Pop Up Museum blog, here.

Summary of Smith Renaissance Society, CYC and FYM’s Pop Up Museum
Written By: Smith Renaissance Society Collegiate Fellow, Lexie Tapke

Who: Smith Renaissance Society, California Youth Connection, and the Foster Youth Museum
When: April 30th, 2017
Where: Smith Renaissance Society’s Annual Chancellor’s Reception (De Anza Community Center, Santa Cruz, CA)
Organized by: Shawn Cervantes, President of Smith Society in collaboration with California Youth Connection and Foster Youth Museum

What it was all about:
At this year’s Chancellor’s Reception, an annual event hosted by the Smith Renaissance Society, a successful year was celebrated for this community. Honors were given to students, faculty, and volunteers of Smith that have either accomplished academic feats or have made Smith a more inclusive and worthy cross-generational community. Unique to this celebration, a Pop-Up exhibition was featured, consisting of a small scale foster youth exhibit and was hosted in partnership with California Youth Connection and the Foster Youth Museum.

How did it go?
The Pop-Up included personal artifacts brought in by several Smith Renaissance Society Collegiate Fellows, all former foster youth; these artifacts presented from their foster years represented hope or empowerment. Through these artifacts, the mini-exhibition provided a backdrop for donors to understand the importance of a foster child’s experience and how these memories live on through objects, artwork and other artifacts.

Guests including Chancellor George Blumenthal browsed the Pop-up museum again and again. One object stood out to the crowd and was later presented in-between awards. Mercedes Marson, a Smith alumna, brought her “Book of Life,” which was filled with photographs and mementos that kept her smiling through the system, offering her hope for a better future. Now, Mercedes is taking the same aspects of positivity and is currently training social workers to use these positivity methods with children in the foster system. She is also headed to Columbia University this fall where she will earn her Master of Social Work with a minor in Public Policy.

The Pop-Up museum, in conjunction with the Chancellor’s Reception, provided an opportunity for these former foster youths to share an intimate part of their foster experience with a larger population in a non-threatening way and draws awareness to the foster youth experience. Shawn Cervantes, President of the Smith Renaissance Society, says, “The exhibition provides a tangible way to help understand them. You can see, feel, and experience these stories from the youth themselves.”

Not only do non-foster youth individuals get a chance to step into the shoes of former foster youth, but this exhibition also breaks down stereotypical perceptions of what former foster youth and their experiences look like. “There is no cookie cutter way in which foster youth experience the system,” says Shawn. These artifacts physically show how each former foster youth developed into the individuals they are today and how these artifacts—pictures, artwork, toys and even sticky notes—helped them through the foster care system.

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