ACAC Discussion of 2021 Youth Banners

ACAC Statement on Youth Banner Installation Process

Cristin Canterbury Bagnall : Co-chair, Arlington Commission for Arts and Culture

Stewart Ikeda: Co-chair, Arlington Commission for Arts and Culture

April 21, 2021

The Youth Banner Initiative encourages development in the visual arts and offers an opportunity for students in grades 6 to 12 to be part of Arlington’s public art programming. Funding is provided by the Gracie James Foundation in memory of Gracie James, a talented Arlington High School student who found solace and joy in the arts. Each year since 2016, teens living or attending school in Arlington have been invited to submit designs for banners. The Youth Banner Initiative is a collaboration between the Arlington Public Schools and the Arlington Commission for Arts and Culture, a town committee of citizen volunteers which serves as the umbrella organization for town-related arts and culture activities.
This year, questions have come up about the Select Board approval process for the banners.  ACAC applied for the use of the light poles in December 2020, and as part of that process shared the 2021 theme, PROTEST: LIFTING VOICES.  ACAC also shared images of the 2020 banners, identified as the 2020 banners, because the 2021 banners had not been juried yet.
In early January 2021 the Select Board approved ACAC’s use of the light poles for the winners of the Youth Banner Initiative.  The jury process took place at the end of January 2021. The winning banners were not available at the time of Select Board approval.
It has been suggested that there was deliberate intent to dupe the Select Board into approving the banners sight unseen.  This is not the case.  As soon as the winning images were requested by the Select Board, in March, ACAC provided them.  At no point did anyone associated with ACAC act with anything less than total transparency.
It is important to understand that the images that students created and that were ultimately chosen by the judges to become public banners this year reflect our student artists’ commentary on national and international events that they witness in the news and in public discourse almost every day. These images were not intended to criticize individuals or organizations in the Town of Arlington.  We value and respect the important roles that the Arlington Police Department and all first responders serve in our community, and do not believe that anything in the intent or content of the Youth Banner Initiative suggests otherwise.
It is our belief that one of the roles of public art is to catalyze conversation, even, sometimes, uncomfortable conversations.  We are proud that Arlington is committed to building a community where everyone is heard, respected, and protected.  Through the Youth Banner Initiative, the Arlington Public Schools and ACAC work together to create one forum for middle and high school students to be heard in the civic space, and we are grateful for the Select Board’s support of that work.
We look forward to continuing the conversation this year’s Youth Banner Initiative has opened up.  We also invite and encourage everyone to make their voices heard through two current public art programs, Heights Haiku and Reflecting on our Pandemic Experience with artist-in-residence Nilou Moochhala.  Learn more at artsarlington.org.

Joint Statement on Youth Banners Initiative 2021

Adria Arch: Commissioner, Arlington Commission for Arts and Culture Coordinator, Youth Banner Initiative

David Ardito: K-12 Director of Visual Art, Arlington Public Schools

Cristin Canterbury Bagnall : Co-chair, Arlington Commission for Arts and Culture

Stewart Ikeda: Co-chair, Arlington Commission for Arts and Culture

April 16, 2021

The Youth Banner Initiative encourages development in the visual arts and offers an  opportunity for students in grades 6 to 12 to be part of Arlington’s public art programming. Funding is provided by the Gracie James Foundation in memory of Gracie James, a talented Arlington High School student who found solace and joy in the arts. Each year since 2016, teens living or attending school in  Arlington have been invited to submit designs for banners. The Youth Banner Initiative is a collaboration  between the Arlington Public Schools and the Arlington Commission for Arts and Culture, a town committee of citizen volunteers which serves as the umbrella organization for town-related arts and  culture activities.
The theme unanimously chosen by teachers and staff for the Youth Banner Initiative 2021 was PROTEST:  LIFTING VOICES. APS students this year stepped up to design strong images about social, environmental,  and economic justice, protection of our earth and its creatures, peace, and love. The artwork from this  year’s students demonstrates the issues that matter most to our students, and to many in the  community. These banners serve as a reminder that our youth are watching us, reading, absorbing, and thinking about their lives and the world that they will inherit. They also want their voices to be heard now. We celebrate them for wanting and needing to do that.
The art teachers and organizers of the Youth Banner Initiative gave the students freedom to create images based on the theme of protest and lifting their voices. Students crafted their submissions, in most cases, as part of their art class participation. Designs were submitted to the competition during the fall and were juried by three Arlington-based arts professionals, Laurie Bogdan, Molly Scannell, and Rob Davidson.
The jurors of the Youth Banner project all agreed that the work was visually strong. These images express the students’ feelings and concerns and do not necessarily represent the Town, the Arlington  Commission for Arts and Culture, or the Arlington Public Schools.
It is important to understand that the images that students created and that were ultimately chosen by the judges to become public banners this year reflect our student artists’ commentary on national and international events that they witness in the news and in public discourse almost every day. These  images were not intended to criticize individuals or organizations in the Town of Arlington. We value  and respect the important roles that the Arlington Police Department and all first responders serve in  our community, and do not believe that anything in the intent or content of the Youth Banner Initiative suggests otherwise.
We understand that citizens have questions about the process by which these banners became part of the civic space, displayed on light poles in the center of town, and will be addressing those questions in further statements in the coming days.
We are enormously proud of our creative students who are willing to lift their “voices” and who use visual art to express the things that are most important to them. And we are equally proud of the art teachers who understand that art is a vehicle for this kind of self-expression and who encourage their  students to raise their strong young voices to do just that. Visual art education can and should be a path toward social inquiry, dialogue, and honest commentary.

Visit the Youth Banner Initiative 2021 site and view all entries here

Youth Banner Initiative 2020 and 2019 are here