‘Sister Cities: Discovering Common Threads’ Documentary Screening & Art Exhibition Recap
On Wednesday, October 27th, Jersey City Theater Center (JCTC) hosted an art exhibition and short documentary film screening of “Sister Cities: Discovering Common Threads,” featuring participants’ work from the 2021 Jersey City Summer Youth Mural Arts Program. The film captured the student artists behind the scenes who installed a 100-foot by 30-foot mural at James J. Ferris High School.
Participants, their friends and family, community members, and other local artists came together to celebrate the incredible work of these inspiring artists. We got you covered with details of the student artists’ creative process and the impact the Jersey City Mural Arts Program (JCMAP) has made on the lives of these young artists.
The Jersey City Mural Arts Program
As the most famous Youth Mural Program in New Jersey, its mission is to activate and inspire through public art. Since 2013, over 200 large-scale murals have been painted throughout the city by a mix of local, national, and international artists. Led by fine artist and filmmaker Duda Penteado and fine artist and muralist Catherine Hart, they provide a hands-on, intensive muralist workshop for young artists.
Every summer, JCMAP invites local youth artists to participate in an incredible, immersive mural painting experience. Thirty students ages 13 to 25 participated in 2021’s six-week program, chosen from a pool of over 100 applicants. They are provided instruction on public art techniques, in-depth research, and community engagement workshops to promote a cultural and historical understanding of their work. For Penteado, it is crucial to building the next generation. He sees the arts as a tremendous opportunity to give space for the youth to express themselves by opening a conversation.
An Overview of Sister Cities: Discovering Common Threads
“Sister Cities: Discovering Common Threads,” a short documentary film directed by Penteado and produced by Unshakeable Productions, was created to help viewers understand and appreciate the entire artistic process it took to paint the mural. The mural was inspired by the 22 sister cities across 19 countries with whom Jersey City has a sister city relationship. You can read our exclusive interview here to learn more about the sister cities.
Throughout the film, we hear from diverse, talented young artists who participated in the program and their experience from the start to finish of the project. Some were first-time students who never spray painted before, while others have been part of the program for many years and come back to teach the newer students. In addition, the program takes on a multi-layer approach, where they prepare the older students to take on leadership roles tasked with training and mentoring the incoming students.
An exciting element of the JCMAP is how students can speak with individuals from sister cities and the countries they were painting for input. Students explained how connecting with an individual who is knowledgeable about the history and culture of the country allowed them to make their artwork more authentic which they were striving towards doing. The mural truly represents a conversation with the world. It is a perfect example of how diverse Jersey City is and reflects the students’ diversity in the artwork.
Let’s Meet a Few of the Young Artists
I had the pleasure of speaking with a few of the talented young artists in the room. Amina Masum, a first-time JCMAP participant, opened the night with a stunning performance. Aside from art, singing is a passion, and she decided to perform “Ungodly Hour” by Chloe and Halle. She chose to sing this song due to the overall message behind empowering young black women and that they can do anything. Amina first heard about JMAP in high school, and she considers being part of the program a blessing. Like many of the other students, this is her first-time having experience working on a large-scale mural. She hopes to work on murals and unique art and dreams of opening her studio one day to allow artists to display their work.
Luc-Paul Adams is a returning JMAP participant who served as a Junior Project Coordinator. He joined JMAP in the summer of 2017 and has participated ever since. As a Junior Project Coordinator, he enjoys teaching the younger and newer students and enjoys witnessing their bravery throughout the program. Art has allowed him to take risks and pushed him to be braver. He is currently a fifth-year student at NJIT for architecture but always looks forward to returning to JMAP, where he has learned invaluable skills that have got him to where he is.
And lastly, I spoke with Victoria Gaiser, who is also a first-time participant. She was inspired to work with other artists in the creative field. It taught her a lot about symbolism and being able to connect art to her surroundings. She hopes to apply her passion for art innovation and illustration.
Preparing Youth Artists for the Future
The JCMAP Youth Program focuses on more than just the art techniques but develops the professionalism and employability of Jersey City’s emerging young artists. The team has truly created a professional environment for these young artists to thrive. You can sense the staff honestly believe in their students’ talents and creativity, allowing them to think about their future differently. Throughout the program, students have learned many valuable skills that will serve them throughout their life. Essential skills such as collaboration, creativity, and communication anchor the artistic process, helping students network and become confident about their artwork to sell it. Penteado and the team have empowered the students to become young professionals who are passionate about their work. He believes regardless if the students want to pursue a career in art or not, the skills they gain from JCMAP will take them far and allow them to apply to their lives in whatever they decide to do.
Murals Creating Change
After the documentary ended, the students gathered on stage to share their experiences working on the mural and answered questions from the audience. We heard inspirational words from students about how participating in the program helped build a sense of community and allowed them to be part of something bigger.
For many of the students, this program allowed them to come out of their shells and form meaningful connections. Several students expressed how they see themselves as introverts but participating in this program challenged them and allowed them to grow. Young artists said they felt empowered and proud of what they have accomplished as a team. The mural is about more than just art. The mural has helped these students personally by digging deeper and professionally as they learned valuable skills that will serve them throughout their lifetime.
Here is the complete list of the 2021 program participants: Ysabelle Abis, Roshard Ali, Cheyne Anderson, Dawson Anderson, Imani Anighoro, Coda Camaya, Frank Gadson, Viktoria Gaiser, Rakeelah Gardner, Claire Goldfinger, Barbara Gochis, Leigh Isaac, Nicole Isaac, William Kunga, Muhammad Masood, Amina Masum, Ria Monga, Exodus Medina, Phoenix Medina, Maya Phillips, Colby Reed, Zhania Scull, Muhammad Shahid, Isha Sidibay, Eja Simms, Nina Uy, and Sandra Youssef.