Talking About Ubuntu: The Youth Speak | Teens Art Council, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


In Partnership with Boston University, 2021

Banner Art: "Her; them and us" 

"Responsibility" (Sadie, Gary, Tariq)
"Responsibility" (Sadie, Gary, Tariq)

Project Name: "Accessibility/Mental Health, Hate, Responsibility"

Host Program: Teens Art Council (TAC) at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Media: Mixed Media

Adult Mentors: Sidney Bowden & Ronald Carroll

BU Wheelock Student Liaisons: Danielly Rodriguez & Michelle Raymond

Youth Artists:
Accessibility/Mental Health: Ashley, Jiyoon & Karen
Hate: Amaal, Elsa, Danato & Marta
Responsibility: Tariq, Sadie & Gary

Youth Artists Age Range: 14-18

Artist Statement

Youth in the Teens Arts Council at the Museum of Fine Arts discussed Ubuntu and current issues and decided on three topics of importance to them. They divided into three groups and each group combed the collection at the MFA to choose several images that represented their topic. The youth then worked together in their groups to create images that express their own feelings and ideas.

Accessibility/Mental Health: To highlight the “struggles that people went through losing their jobs” the group chose images of children in the Great Depression, noting, “it shows how deep it goes.” In the group's original artwork the left side represents a lack of resources and the right side represents access to housing, resources and all things needed.

Hate: The group chose an image of persecuted Native Americans in battle with U.S. soldiers. The teens collectively agreed that this image conveyed the meaning of hate. The image they created relates to the chosen image in that they both “show what society wants us to be.”

Responsibility: The group chose an image that showed “nature on one side and destruction on the other”…symbolically showing human responsibility. The image they created conveys the important message of responsibility, specifically when it comes to the issue of climate change.

Image Galleries + Project Statements

Accessibility/Mental Health (Ashley, Jiyoon, Karen)

We were inspired by the artwork at the Women Take the Floor exhibit and we chose Coal Miner’s Children, West Virginia by Marion Post Wolcott from 1938. The photo shows two girls covered in coal dust. We were inspired by this piece because it captures the essence of the experience when you don’t have something, it can be a detriment to your physical and mental health.

For our piece, we focused on how mental health is impacted by physical things, like having a home, access to money, or doctors and therapists. One side of the brain shows that when you have necessities like having money and a home it can lead to positive thinking and reactions. The other side is more monotone in color because when you don’t have access to things it can lead to negative thinking.

Hate (Amaal, Elsa, Danato, Marta)

Our group's theme was ‘hate’ let that be toward POC, Women, the LGBTQ+ Community, or any other group of people. The Kehinde Wiley 2013 piece, John, 1st Baron Byron from the Contemporary Art of the Americas collection flips the script by replacing a 17th century white baron with a contemporary young man of color. To get some further inspiration our group also explored the Native North American exhibit and found David Paul Bradley’s 1995 piece Greasy Grass Premonition #2, which caught our attention and connected to our theme. Flipping the script on the story told about the Battle of Little Big Horn, this image depicts the real outcome of the Battle of the Greasy Grass in the thought bubble of white male soldiers.

We took the idea of having the hate in a cloud and created a female with a cloud that holds multiple hate words. We are pointing out how all these thoughts are told to us and the moment we acknowledge them they are all in our heads, aka, up in the clouds. In bold black lettering we wrote the word hate across her face because we wanted to point out that words do leave a scar.

Responsibility (Sadie, Gary, Tariq)

We created this piece to represent our responsibility to our community in regards to climate change. In the foreground, we see water studded with reflective gems, representing the vibrancy of Earth’s nature. Looming in the background, however, are factories spewing smoke over the water. The factories are composed of ripped up pieces of nature magazines, representing the way that corporations take pieces of nature and use them to ruin other nature. In one of the clouds of smoke, “recycle” can be seen, reminiscent of the pattern of corporations placing blame for climate change on individual citizens instead of on the corporations that produce most greenhouse gasses.

Our art piece is made to resemble the likes of the Expulsion from the Garden of Eden by Thomas Cole and Watson and The Shark by John Singleton Copley. The main idea behind this creation is the idea of responsibility humans have to our planet. The factories were made to depict climate change negatively and the water is showing the cleanliness of the world, gems are used to emphasize its beauty. The smoke coming out of the factories is also demonstrating the filth of the world and another thing negatively contributing to climate change. The word “Recycle” is also there to show the hypocrisy of companies telling people to recycle and to save the world while they are the main contributor to climate change. Our work of art is meant to show the responsibilities humans have to our planet and to each other.

A Flame Like Me

A flame like me,
To be the light that I want to see,
I must look within the dark of me,
And spark a flame,
In the midst of rain, Against the grain,
It grew bright,
oh, what a sight to see,
A flame like me!

By Tariq Charles