An O’K Summer

Do not be fooled by the title- my summer was more spectacular and inspiring than it was ok. It was, however, an O’Keeffe summer filled with creativity, motivation, courage, and leadership and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

I’m a firm believer in the prominence of mentorship and lineage and as a visual artist myself, it has been incredibly rewarding for me to be a role model and leader this summer as a college intern for the Georgia O’Keeffe Art and Leadership Program for Boys. I am feeling rather melancholic and reflective now that we just finished with our last group of boys. It seems like it was just yesterday I was meeting the other four interns and we were bonding during our orientation week, talking about how excited we were to meet the first group of boys and lead art activities. Now we are in the middle of preparing a group exhibition of works from the students both in the boys and girls program from this summer to showcase their talent and show the community of Santa Fe how remarkable this program is.

My favorite part about the program is seeing the growth in the boys’ creativity and courage in such a short amount of time. There is something quite remarkable about seeing the shy boys on the first day blossom into energetic and radiant beings throughout the sessions. I have seen them all be positive and encouraging to one another which helps them come out of their shells and be who they are. I’ve noticed the significant importance this program has on the boys not only by working along two high school interns and one college intern who have been boys in the program a few years back, but also by meeting and working with the returnee boys who have come back for their second or third time. These boys are especially mature, passionate, and positive- a few of many qualities that they have to be role models and leaders for their peers.

We had the privilege of inviting several visiting artists throughout the summer to work with us, from theatre to African drumming  to printmaking to rapping and even some batik*. It was inspiring seeing the boys try out new art mediums and new art forms and seeing their eyes light up with passion for new experiences. The interns also got to lead a few art activities. I got to teach a Cubist art activity that taught them some art historical context and that art isn’t always supposed to be realistic or perfect- that it can be strange, bizarre, offbeat, and most importantly fun. We created shapes on paper and transformed the plethora of spaces into unique faces that expressed and evoked emotion. I find it liberating to be able to laugh and have fun while creating art which is what this activity did, while at the same time creating very beautiful works that had a distinct sensibility to them.

I hope that the boys not only had fun in this program but also got something deep and rewarding out of it. I feel fulfilled having learned a lot from their curiosity of the world and endless energy and also fulfilled to have been the best role model I could be. If I could tell my 13 year old self anything it would be this: “Go after anything you believe in, no matter who or what seems to want to stop you, and remember that your passion will take you places you will never imagine. Don’t stop.” This is exactly what I did and here I am, writing this, finishing this incredible internship and going off to my senior year to complete my BFA. I believe this message is what the program has taught the boys and I can’t wait to reunite with them at the exhibition and congratulate them once more on their achievements and for inspiring me immensely.

*Batik is a wax-resist dying technique done on cloth that creates beautiful shapes and marks. This technique has a rich history in many parts of the world which we learned from Nigerian artist Gasali Onireke Adeyemo

Diego Suarez, 2015 Georgia O’Keeffe Art and Leadership college intern