The Attic Youth Center provides various artistic outlets for its youth — including acting, singing and dancing clubs — and now will enable young people to share their talents with the entire city.
The Attic’s screen-printing group is one of a dozen local youth-print projects that will display its work as part of the Free Library of Philadelphia’s printmaking exhibition, through the end of the month at the Central Branch, 1901 Vine St.
Several of The Attic works have also been included in the William Way LGBT Community Center’s Queer Printmaking exhibit, which celebrates its opening reception at 6 p.m. March 12 and runs through April 30.
The Attic members also worked with a youth print group at Norris Square Neighborhood Project to create a banner that has been affixed on the north side of City Hall, which will be in place until April 9 as part of the Art in City Hall program.
Beth Pulcinella, who facilitates the printmaking groups, which run Mondays and Wednesdays, originally taught the program several years ago in partnership with Spiral Q Puppet Theater and returned last year through a collaboration with the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Printmaking allows the youth to select an image they find visually stimulating, and oftentimes meaningful to their lives, and then create plates — or screens — that enable them to experiment with different colors and paper textures for printing the image.
“Historically, printmaking was this way to really challenge this elite aristocracy and the idea that art is just for the rich,” Pulcinella said. “So I think it’s an interesting, cool place to come from and exciting roots to have.”
She said since the fall, about 35 youth have been involved with the program and, while not all have completed their projects, they often return to the classes.
No experience is required for the workshops, and Pulcinella provides direct guidance to new students, utilizes ample teaching materials and also has noticed that youth with more practice at printmaking often reach out to those who are struggling.
“These art-studio spaces do lend themselves well to building community. There are people having this dialogue about their artwork and then it just goes into their personal lives, and I think that’s a really important thing to happen.”
Pulcinella said many of the works reflect issues affecting the LGBT youth community, and two in particular — which depict same-sex couples embracing — have helped further dialogues among the group members about such issues as homophobia.
Both prints were submitted to the Free Library of Philadelphia for its display, but some of the exhibit organizers felt their content was objectionable. Pulcinella argued on behalf of the youth artists as to the value of the prints and both are now featured alongside the works of the mainstream printmaking groups.
“I was really adamant about those being included and tried to explain in the e-mail I sent to them that this should be a space and an opportunity for people to change their minds,” she said. “And it’s been cool to share this experience with the young folks, because we talked about in general what happened and they got to read the e-mails and talk about homophobia and what you should do when people you consider allies sometimes make choices that aren’t really operating in that way.”
Pulcinella said several Attic participants eagerly helped install the artwork this week at William Way and that they’re equally enthused about the City Hall piece.
“Someone who worked on the banner was walking through City Hall and saw it and was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, I helped make that,’ and it just made their day.”
Attic executive director Carrie Jacobs said the organization is aiming to eventually open its own printmaking shop in the building, in response to the overwhelming reaction this program has seen from the young people.
“Some of the youth who are involved are just fascinated. They’re like, ‘I didn’t think I could ever do this,’ or ‘I never even considered art,’ and now they’re just really engaged and excited.”