The “I AM...” exhibit serves as a visual reminder that the next generation of change-makers is already in our midst ‒ we only need to look up and hear their voices.
The “I AM...” installation is the newest addition to the Talking Walls series, curated by the Hart House Community Access & Outreach department. Designed by Human Biology HMB490: Health in Community placement students Yi Qu and Cheryl Nong, this powerful exhibition highlights youth voices along the walls of Hart House as they inform upcoming programing and transform the future of the space itself.
Youth were asked to write ten statements about themselves – the “I AM” component. They were given little direction on a theme or category and were free to create any statement that resonated with them. Next, these participants were asked to cross off or remove certain statements, further refining their “I AM” statements. The remaining statements were those that they felt the most connected to in that moment in time.
To create the installation, the HMB490 placement students collected and analyzed hundreds of these “I AM” statements, and featured them in complex panels, complemented by statistics and visual art, to showcase how youth view themselves and their place in the community.
These panels reflect common shared feelings. as well as the internal conversations that youth have with themselves.
As artists, developing the "I AM" exhibit presented us with a unique challenge. We settled on data visualization as a way to showcase the statements for a few reasons. Firstly, we liked that treating the statements as data gave us a way to aggregate youth experiences without ignoring individual data points. We struck a balance between exploring the themes that developed across responses, while also retaining the features that made them unique.
Data was entered and cleaned in Microsoft Excel, analyzed using the programming language R, and then designed in Canva and Scimago Graphica. Handwritten drawings and text were created by youth and were scanned digitally for incorporation.
Additionally, data visualization captures the spirit of the exhibit itself. "I AM" doesn't seek to construct an entirely new world, but rather challenges audiences to transform their views of the current one. Instead of building something new from the ground up, our goal was to honor art that already existed in the form of youths’ own creations. We hope that these sentiments ring true not just at Hart House, but within our larger communities.
- Yi Qu & Cheryl Nong
HMB490 Placement Students, part of the Hart House Youth Access Team
“Talking Walls” is an ongoing series of informal exhibit spaces staged throughout Hart House. It builds understanding and awareness by giving voice to challenging and engaging subject matter. Talking Walls provides a venue for socially conscious, thought-provoking artwork, texts, documentary images and audio stories.
Anyone interested in creating a dialogue, posing questions, or sharing ideas through their work is welcome to submit to Talking Walls. Please contact Saša Rajšić, Coordinator, Integrated Arts Education for more information.
This initiative is brought to you by the Hart House Community Access & Outreach department.