'Healing Through Art' show provides outlet for Portland-area youth

Colored pencils in a box.

In the summer of 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing and marches for social justice taking place across the United States, youth in the Portland metro area were turning to art to express themselves. Around the same time, families in Oregon State University Extension Service’s 4-H Youth Development Program asked for opportunities for their children to be creative and reflect.

In response, after months of planning, the OSU Virtual Art Show featuring the works of 25 young artists opened on April 15, 2021, at the OSU Portland Center. The pieces include digital art, ceramics, watercolor and acrylic painting and even a musical composition. “Art tells a story, and we wanted to create a space that elevates local young artists and their experiences,” said Kristen Moore, a 4-H faculty member in Washington County. “This couldn’t have happened without new partnerships.”

For the first time, a team spanning 4-H, the OSU Portland Center, the OSU College of Liberal Arts, OSU Precollege Programs, and OSU Information Services worked together throughout the fall and winter to plan the show. The team met weekly and collaborated with volunteers and community partners from 4-H Teen Teacher Corps, Native American Youth and Family Center, Centro Cultural, and Hacienda CDC. The show’s theme, “Healing Through Art,” was informed by young people in a virtual forum that was part of the planning process, Moore said.

“Listening and creating space for youth voices is important when planning a program for young people,” Moore said. “This discussion gave young people the opportunity to work directly with OSU and see their ideas reflected in a program.” Youth in Washington, Multnomah and Clackamas Counties could participate for free and submit up to two art works. Starting in February, art submission recruitment focused on local K-12 teachers and community partner networks.

A faculty member in the College of Liberal Arts awarded two scholarships for School of Arts and Communication’s 2021 summer JumpstART program to two distinguished high school artists. A local 4-H volunteer who owns an art supply business awarded one watercolor kit each to a distinguished elementary school and middle school artist.