TAG: Together, Art Grows
TAG, “Together, Art Grows,” is a youth-directed initiative that aims to build community and neighborhood pride through the creation and installment of public art in Northwest Rutland, VT.
Throughout the Fall of 2017 a team of community leaders lead by NeighborWorks of Western Vermont supported a group of nine 9-12 year old youth from the Boys and Girls Club of Rutland County to conceptualize and create public art in Northwest Rutland.
TAG, “Together, Art Grows” was designed by attendees of NeighborWorks America’s 2016 Community Leadership Institute as a community building and engagement effort to foster neighborhood pride among youth and empower them to get involved in their neighborhood’s revitalization.
The design is simple: educate and empower youth to create public art by providing support, encouragement, knowledge, resources, and tools. This design was molded into a twelve week, 1 hour per week project with an emphasis on education in the first few weeks, teamwork and decision-making after that, and then the majority spent on practice, design, and execution.
As an adult-initiated project that desired youth empowerment, the path from start to finish was left flexible. Youth were encouraged and supported as they made decisions, including the location of the art, the media of artwork, and the message of the artwork.
This made TAG a very time-intensive project for the community leaders involved, with many weeks where they scrambled between sessions to line up the people, resources, and equipment required. The involved adults committed a significant amount of hours and energy over the span of the project responding to the youth’s decisions (and biting their tongues unless necessary).
Once the youth had voted on location and the form of visual art they wanted to create, the adult team “TAG’d” two artists from the surrounding community to be involved: Josh Morse, a staff member at Green Screen Graphics, and Nick Santoro, a sculptor and long-time community activist. These artists helped the youth hone in and develop their messages and skills, and then guided them as they created their public art.
For weeks, the TAG team (youth and adults) met and walked over to Baxter Street Alley (a.k.a. “Bums Alley”), three blocks from the Boys and Girls Club. Three of the youth team worked with Nick on marble sculptures, learning to carve into stone produced at a quarry a few miles to the west. Six youths worked with Josh to design and paint their murals. As the days grew shorter and colder, the youth continued to work on their art, layering up and doing jumping jacks to fight against the cold.
On a frigid but beautiful December day, the youth plunged their hands into the paint buckets and smacked their hands onto the alley wall to leave their signatures on their work.