Introducing our newest Guild Spotlight, Eboni Wyatt! Get to learn more about Eboni (they/them) and their experience at Urban ArtWorks in building community, empowering youth, and creating pathways through the transformative and healing power of art.
Hi Eboni! Please tell us a bit about yourself, and what motivates the work you do day-to-day.
My name is Eboni Wyatt and I am the Program Director at Urban ArtWorks. I oversee the planning and implementation for our youth programs. I've been working with youth and young adults for over ten years, and I have a personal artistic practice based in film photography, zines and prose. I'm passionate about building community, especially around the intersections of art and activism. I graduated from Georgia State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, focusing on race and urban studies in 2013. I then spent four years in San Diego, CA working at the University of San Diego where I helped manage and develop various youth programs, then directed an after-school program for a charter school.
Every day I am motivated by the energy our youth bring to our art studio and their dedication to our programs. The way our youth think creatively and challenge themselves and each other in growing their artistic abilities is inspiring. The barriers that they overcome in small and big ways through our program encourages and drives me to continue doing this work. Watching our young people find community and discover their passion to make art keeps me going.
Where are you located? Who is your community?
Our organization is based in Seattle, Washington but serves all of King County. Our community is made up of artists, muralists, youth, art administrators, teaching artists and volunteers. I'm proud to work for an organization that is diverse, values anti-racism and supports emerging and BIPOC artists and muralists.
Photo courtesy of Urban ArtWorks
How has community arts education supported in healing and/or meeting the needs of your community?
With our youth programs we prioritize working with teens who face barriers to the arts and creating pathways for them to become the future muralists, teaching artists or staff within our organization. Our youth programs provide stipends for each youth participant to honor and show that we value art as work and labor, and in hopes that their stipends support any financial barriers they face. We focus on building community and helping youth overcome the challenges they face by exposing them to the transformative power of art.
Some of our projects have focused on helping communities heal from gun violence and the loss of a community member. We helped youth transform a place of violence to instead celebrate the many cultures within that community and take a stand against the violence happening around them. And most recently we worked with a group of students to help them grieve the loss of a classmate by coming together through art and memorializing their friend in a mural.
What are some challenges that your organization is currently facing?
As we've grown, our programmatic reach has expanded. We have more and more youth coming to us from south Seattle and King County. We've identified that transportation is a challenge for many of these youth to access our programs. We're doing our best to break this challenge and hope to set up year round programming in these areas to work with more youth where they are located to break that barrier.
I love that I am working in a community where I am surrounded by artists of all ages and walks of life. Working and being in community with artists with different styles and mediums has challenged me to take my personal art practice more seriously and helped me own that I too am an artist.
What do you love about the work you do, and/or the community you work in?
My personal value of using art as a tool for activism and social change is honored and valued at Urban ArtWorks. I love that I am able to work at the intersections of art and social justice. In addition, as an artist myself, I love that I am working in a community where I am surrounded by artists of all ages and walks of life. Working and being in community with artists with different styles and mediums has challenged me to take my personal art practice more seriously and helped me own that I too am an artist.
Do you have any highlights or stories regarding your work that you’d like to share?
My first summer working with the organization, I worked with a youth participant who just wanted to know how he could make the most money with his art. Over that summer and him then joining our mentorship program, he was really exposed to how impactful public art can be and the importance of working with community. This is a direct quote from their artist bio, "In the past two years, I realized that I no longer aspire to sell my art to fine art galleries and the upper class, instead I plan to pursue public art to allow more people access."
What’s in store for you/your org for the remainder of this year? What are you looking forward to?
I'm looking forward to continuing to grow our Mural Apprentice Program and Base Crew mentorship program. We've been making new partnerships to provide year round programs in other parts of the county, so I'm excited to see our geographic reach expand. This summer we are providing 6 programs, and I'm really excited to see what our young people create, the connections they'll make and see them thrive in creative community with their peers.
Personally, I'm looking forward to completing a zine commission for a Black arts organization in Seattle, connecting with more artists in my community and completing a few personal film photography and zine projects.
Lastly, what does community arts education mean to you?
Community Arts Education to me means supporting creative curiosity and discovery, through experimenting with various mediums.
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Published: May 23, 2023