Dozens of people are milling around a new art exhibit featuring some powerful images.
It's a show featuring self-portraits by some troubled South Coast teens, who are expressing themselves through their artwork and dialogue with the pictures they've written to describe themselves.
Richard Avila is standing next to one of the dozen or so portraits hanging in a lobby area of the Ventura County Office of Education. As you look at it, you suddenly realize it’s a self-portrait of the 17 year old.
Avila has a determined look on his face in the self-portrait, as do many of the other works. The artists are all teens between 12 and 18 years old, and are students at Gateway Community School. Many of them have had difficult home lives, have been in trouble, and for whatever reason have left their traditional schools to go to the county middle and high school campus. Avila had a rough family life, living at various times with his grandmother, mother, and in foster care before ending up with his uncle. He admits it was tough, but says he now has a solid plan for his future, with plans to get his high school diploma, and join the military.
Ventura County Superintendent of Schools Stan Mantooth says Gateway’s goal is to try to get teens back on track, so they can finish their educations and have a better shot at having a good life.
14 year old Daisy Dominguez is another of the students exhibiting her self-portrait. The teen admits she’s had issues, but says she’s stepping up to get her life together, and wants to graduate, and become a hairdresser.
The images, and the written narratives along with them say powerful things about the experiences of these teens, with many of them survivors of dysfunctional home lives, or violence.
The hope is that giving these kids a new outlet to express themselves we be another step towards getting them back into their schools, completing their educations, and hopefully moving past the difficulties they’ve faced in their lives.