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Through the Eyes of Youth exhibit captures the voices of Abbotsford’s young artists

According to the Reach’s website, the exhibit was “planned and executed by a group of dedicated leadership students in grades 10 to 12” who are AYC members. It was open for submissions from all Abbotsford youth between ages 12 and 18, and addresses two questions: What do youth like about Abbotsford? And what would they change if they could?

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By Jasmin Chahal (Contributor) – Email

Print Edition: May 20, 2015

Photo Credit Jasmin Chahal

While the main gallery at the Reach has been temporarily closed off for the construction of new exhibits, the front gallery space is currently being used to exhibit the Abbotsford Youth Commission (AYC)’s Through the Eyes of Youth.

According to the Reach’s website, the exhibit was “planned and executed by a group of dedicated leadership students in grades 10 to 12” who are AYC members. It was open for submissions from all Abbotsford youth between ages 12 and 18, and addresses two questions: What do youth like about Abbotsford? And what would they change if they could?

The photography highlights the depth of both connection and disconnect that Abbotsford youth experience within their community. It captures an appreciation of Abbotsford’s diversity and natural landscape while exploring struggles with violence, safety, and marginalization.

Thirteen-year-old Lexi Russo’s photograph, “Homeless Camp Dog,” aims to capture the experiences and struggles of the homeless in Abbotsford. Her photo and artist statement poignantly capture an issue some might be surprised to see a young person address.

“All people … should be able to live in affordable housing,” Russo writes.

“Roadside Memorial — Remembering the Lost” by 18-year-old Denise Landsberger shows a collection of roadside flowers with the intent of bringing attention to driving safety in Abbotsford. Reflecting on the many roadside memorials she has seen in Abbotsford, Denise wrote: “When asked the question, ‘What do I want to see changed in Abbotsford?’ I was stumped. When you get so used to something being the way it is, you don’t actually think about how it could be improved. When I took the time to see what was actually happening, all of that changed.”

While many of the pieces offer an important voice to the issues Abbotsford’s youth feel need to be addressed and improved by the community, many others capture the positive experiences of growing up within a community that is developing towards diversity and inclusivity.

Micaela Pirritano, who took a trip to Abbotsford’s International Friendship Garden to photograph her piece “Submerged Stones,” interpreted her image of the garden’s rocks as a metaphor for the beauty of cross-cultural acceptance.

“All of the stones in this image are diverse and remarkable in some way or another, yet they rest peacefully among each other in the calm, still waters,” Micaela stated. “In a way, this precisely depicts the type of inclusive and diverse community that I have the honour to live in.”

Through the Eyes of Youth acts as an empowering platform for Abbotsford’s youth to voice themselves through their artistry. The thoughtful reflection upon issues of community explored through the photography makes this a display that is one worth wandering through. Unveiled during BC Youth Week, the exhibit will be on display at the Reach until Thursday, May 28.

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