Monday, June 4, 2018
The U.S. Department of Education’s Student Art Exhibit Program, which has been in operation since 2004, regularly features a rotating collection of visual art created by both American and international students. On May 4, the program debuted an exhibit called “Total Tolerance.” The exhibit includes various photos, paintings, and poetry by winners of the 2018 YoungArts’ National Arts Competition, a yearly competition for young artists ages 15-18. The selected works investigate and address the theme of “tolerance of all people regardless of religion, culture, race or gender,” according to a YoungArts press release.
One painting on display by Juniel Solis, a gay 16-year-old junior in high school, is called “Los Pajaritos” and depicts two young men who are wearing lipstick and dresses while touching each other’s torsos. They both look dubiously at the viewer of the painting. Solis explained the message of the art to The Washington Post: “…You can tell by the expression of the models in the painting that they are in fear…They’re in fear of society telling them what they can’t wear or how they have to act. I want people to know that they have to be true to themselves, be who they are. Especially now.”
Other student artists have similarly expressed to the media that the subject matter of their art feels particularly urgent in the current political climate. The exhibit holds special significance due to its prominent placement at the U.S. Department of Education, which is currently under the leadership of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
“In the context of current discussions about social and civil rights issues, and the strength of student movements across the country, it is clear that our nation’s youth are leading important conversations about how people from different backgrounds can come together through the arts,” stated YoungArts.
The exhibition will be open for viewing by appointment through June 29, 2018.
About the National YoungArts Foundation
The National YoungArts Foundation (YoungArts) was established in 1981 by Lin and Ted Arison to identify and nurture the most accomplished young artists in the visual, literary, design and performing arts, and assist them at critical junctures in their educational and professional development. Through a wide range of annual programs, performances and partnerships with some of the nation’s leading cultural institutions, YoungArts aspires to create a strong community of alumni and a platform for a lifetime of encouragement, opportunity and support.