Drawing inspiration from the Serie Print Project archive at the Mexic-Arte Museum, in Austin, Texas, students, ages 6 to 17, study art history, the print collection, digital design, and screen printing to tell their own stories and contribute to a vibrant community voice. This is Screen It!
The program launched in 2009 to expand the community’s interest in this historical art collection. More than 1,000 silkscreen prints depict the rich cultural heritage of Latinos and Latin Americans. However, the Museum’s artwork is not entirely rooted in the pre-Columbian era. The exhibits also showcase more contemporary pieces.
Screen It! combines analysis of artistic styles and historical periods; interactive learning, such as field trips to the Museum; and technical instruction. These activities help participants develop an understanding of the diverse art and culture of Latinos and Latin Americans. Many students relate to the print collection so deeply that it inspires them to express their own heritage through art projects, created in the program’s workshops. Some truly embrace the museum components of Screen It! and pursue museum studies in college.
Held after school and in the summer, Screen It! reaches 2,100 at-risk Latino and African-American youth from Dove Springs, an underserved neighborhood of Austin. During intensive workshops provided at host schools and community centers, students learn basic screen printing vocabulary and the printing process. Leading these sessions are local screen printers, artists, and museum professionals, all of whom both mentor and instruct the participants. Projects include multicolored T-shirts, tote bags, artwork, and posters, featuring students’ original designs.
One of the ways Screen It! supports these youth in their artistic enterprises is by providing opportunities for them to showcase their skills. After attending entrepreneurial training classes, the young artists sell their creations and demonstrate screen printing techniques at such large-scale Austin events as the SXSWedu Expo and Taste of Mexico, part of the city’s Cinco de Mayo celebration. As further validation of the program’s merit, a Screen It! exhibition will be part of the inauguration of Austin’s new central library, in spring 2017.
For many of the young people in this program, transitioning between elementary, middle, and high school can be challenging. They strive to make positive choices and follow a path toward academic success, despite such neighborhood issues as gangs and drugs. Screen It! sets a public service goal to reduce youth involvement in these risky activities, as well as to minimize their contact with the juvenile justice system.
By providing consistent educational and artistic opportunities, plus mentoring, Screen It! has a remarkable 100 percent success rate: Participants remain crime-free and confident in their abilities to succeed after the program.
The students are often able to take a field trip to the Mexic-Arte Museum as part of their program, and that really hits home because they are able to connect to historical art that is steeped in culture. We also have a lot of contemporary prints that they have never seen in a museum context before.Olivia S. Tamzarian Education Coordinator, Mexic-Arte Museum