Routines & Rituals
Oklahoma Contemporary Teen Arts Council 2023-2024
Routines & Rituals
Life is a routine. We sleep, wake, shower, scroll, go to school and work. These rituals and routines offer comfort in a chaotic world, but the monotony of repetition can incite boredom and frustration.
Oklahoma Contemporary Teen Arts Council (OCTAC) explores these notions of existence through their recently opened — and first ever — exhibition, Routines & Rituals, on view in the Education Wing. The installation features contemporary, multimedia creations from the 2023-2024 OCTAC members, offering a snapshot into the minds and hearts of today's youth and this budding group of artists.
“This was our first time doing a show with the teens,” says Senior Coordinator of Teen and Youth Programs Kauʻi Kanahele.
“We kind of did a dive into Art21, their video series, and everybody split off into different themes and sections, looking at what kind of artwork inspired them. And then they came back and talked about everything they had watched, and it seemed everybody had the most they could relate to with ideas relating to routines and rituals.”
Routines & Rituals reflects the patterns and personal experiences of current high school sophomores, juniors and seniors. From the original conception of the overarching theme to creating and installing their own work, the exhibition is by the teens, for the teens.
Conversations of identity, belonging and societal expectations emerge throughout the artworks hanging along the first-floor corridor, inspired by the artists’ lived experiences.
Some of the artists explored the relationship between appearance and reality.
“I leaned more into society’s perception of people and communities, specifically the LGTBQ community,” says artist Jynx Hutzel of their piece Mirrored Perceptions. “There seems to be a precedent of always being happy on the outside and colorful and bright and outgoing, having a certain kind of attitude. But a lot of times, it’s the opposite of that because people are people, and mental illness runs rampant through multiple minority communities.”
Others reflected on perpetual habits and transformations.
“My piece is kind of representing the way, over and over again, we sacrifice parts of ourselves and leave parts of ourselves in order to move onto newer, different times in our lives,” says Darci Spivery. “We go from elementary to middle school to high school to college, and we leave behind a part of ourselves we’ll never be able to get back. It’s kind of this unavoidable pattern that we repeat in life.”
And many searched for ways to speak up.
“With art, I want to express myself and make my voice heard,” says artist Arielle Hines-Lunn.
From meditations on the cultural significance of hair in Black communities and the history of trans existence to commentary on time, depictions of poetry and the day-to-day of a teenager in the 21st century, the artworks both collectively and individually illustrate a thoughtful, flourishing group of young people navigating the complexities of their worlds through the power of art and community-making.
“The first day we began working on their pieces for the exhibition, everyone was brainstorming and collaborating, bouncing off each other,” says Kanahele. “I think that’s so important, especially them being able to feed off of the energy of other creative people their age.”
OCTAC members not only explore contemporary art, ideas and creative processes, they also give advice to the Education Department on how to strengthen teen engagement within the organization. Throughout the remainder of the 2023-2024 session, the cohort will continue to explore the inner workings of a non-profit arts center, engaging with and learning from local artists and experts.
“I try to break up their session in a couple of different ways to reflect what we do as an organization,” explains Kanahele. “Obviously, we show contemporary art, but we also do a lot of programming and performance. The rest of their session will be more geared toward talking to people about their jobs here, like working with Lead Preparator Johnny Antonelli to install the exhibition, and chatting with some local artists about their process and projects.”
“Next, we will be going into what it looks like to program. For example, OCTAC is partnering with Freedom Oklahoma, which will be bringing some teen art-making nights in February, so we tested out projects for that and tried to conceptualize the project: how to make it, how to tell someone to make it, how to get them inspired to make it.”
Senior Manager of Youth and Family Programs Christine Gibson will additionally bring a proposal to the group, requesting their assistance for creating projects for Second Saturday art-making activities, providing the teens insight about what goes into running a large public program as well as allowing them to serve as creative contributors.
Routines & Rituals is on view through May 6, 2024. Take time on your next visit to wander among the Education Wing’s gallery to experience the energy, talent and viewpoints of this cohort of young artists. Admission is always free.
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