Revival Art Collective provides space for youth to express creativity

Photos by Tyler Klaus and Molly Bilker

They started with apples.

Everyone starts with apples, or at least some piece of fruit.

The following week, they looked at chalk-white animal skulls and multicolored votive candles, a lamp off to the side casting long shadows across the table.

And last Saturday they could pick their own references. Some drew what was in front of them – a metalwork robot, a Lucky Cat, some flowers, more candles. Others created their own compositions – plastic lions and elephants, shells, wine glasses.

The students in the teen drawing class at Revival Art Collective, located at Fifth Avenue and McDowell Road, come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. Some have never taken an art class before. Others are obsessive doodlers, always sketching the world around them and the scenes they imagine in their minds.

The one thing they have in common is a willingness to learn and explore the world of art.

“Drawing was just something I found really relaxing, despite not being very good at it,” 17-year-old Estevan Phillips said of his early experiences with the craft.

Most of Phillips’ experience came from a mandatory art class in his freshman year of high school. Currently a senior at Bioscience High School, he said that class was where he realized the power art had. And although the school no longer has an additional art elective class, there is a popular extracurricular club called National Art Honor Society.

“(Art) isn’t important to everybody, but it’s hard to imagine just being me without it,” Phillips said. “It’s fundamental to a lot of kids.”

Phillips said that while Bioscience focuses on traditional STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, math), much of what the students learn is interwoven with creativity. This creates an environment quickly being described with the acronym STEAM, which adds the word “art”.

But not everyone has that same experience.

Villa Montessori School eighth-graders Camille Cintron and Sade Moore said their school doesn’t have an art program. Taking classes at a gallery such as Revival is their primary option for learning technical skills, as well as experiencing different forms of art.

“I’ve never been able to draw something in front of me before,” Moore, 14, said.

The art class meets every Saturday for five weeks beginning Feb. 2. About 10 students show up every week, most of them consistently every week.

Tricia Wang, the course’s teacher, begins every class with a brief lesson. One week she discussed some of the tools the students could use to create their drawings, such as erasers with different shapes and pencils of varying darkness and hardness. Another class covered the basics of shading, from making lines on a paper with hatching to small dots with a technique called stippling.

“It’s just the basics,” Wang said. “But I think it builds a good foundation for them to start drawing anything.”

Wang has been an artist for most of her life, but has only taught for about a year. This is her first class for younger students.

“I wanted to start with older kids,” she said. “The development of creativity at that age is really interesting.”

Cintron, 13, agreed that self-expression is important, especially for adolescents.

“Creativity is important because the teenage mind can be a little imaginative at times,” Cintron said. “Like, if I have a feeling I’ll draw it on paper.”

Moore added that a lot of people tend to be visual learners, which makes art not only a fun activity but also a useful tool in education.

“It’s the best way that children learn, it makes them happy to learn, it helps them be who they want to be,” she said.

The classes mark Revival’s first foray into community-led classes after opening a year and a half ago. The gallery and tattoo shop is intended as a space for artists to utilize for their own purposes, whether that’s by featuring art there, using the studio space or teaching classes like Wang.

“We’re interested in utilizing the space in as many ways as possible,” Revival co-owner Jody Johns said.

Johns’ husband Siege, the other co-owner and full-time resident artist at Revival, met Wang after she came across Revival online. He immediately liked her attitude and thought she was exactly who he’d want leading classes in the space, he said.

Siege hopes to offer more classes for different age groups and artistic mediums in the future, especially seeing that the teen drawing class was a success. He said he hopes that more classes will help bring the community together more and even bring familiar faces back to Revival.

Ultimately, the students said their love of art has grown over their time in the class as they learned and practiced different techniques under Wang’s guidance.

“I have this great opportunity to talk to people who are experienced,” Phillips said. “This class is basically permission to draw, it’s time blocked out of my day.”

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