Anastasia and Joe Hernandez stand among dozens of art pieces in a pop-up youth gallery, set up in the Arts Rising headquarters on Main Street. The gallery held its exhibit on Friday. (Dustin Godfrey/Western News)

Don’t let the pop-up gallery fall down

Organizers of the Arts Rising youth pop-up gallery want to see it become a permanent space

Organizers of the Youth Pop-Up Art Gallery during the Arts Rising festival in Penticton are hoping to keep the gallery going beyond the festival.

Set up for the arts festival last week, organizers held an exhibition for the youth art on Friday, but organizers say they’d like to see the gallery space kept open for young artists and young people looking to express themselves, at least until a youth centre opens up.

Beyond the art exhibit, the gallery was home to workshops, including hip-hop dancing, “art and soul” and improv workshops.

“The community has really come out to support this,” said organizer Anastasia Hernandez, who added it’s a way to help the youth get involved in the arts community.

“(We want) to see if there’s a way that we can keep this space, and if not this exact space, we’re really working on it, to see if we can keep this exact space and make it work, but if not this exact space, something like this as a youth drop-in centre for arts.”

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Hernandez noted the talent that was displayed in the gallery but added there were submissions of all skill levels. For Hernandez, the point wasn’t to showcase fine art but to allow the youth to express themselves.

She pointed particularly to one submission on a wall — a crudely painted, pink happy face.

“That young lady was not happy at all,” Hernandez said. “She was not really engaged with the rest of the group. At the end, she just gave this kind of thing, probably thinking I wasn’t going to put it up like she was just messing around.

“But you know what, I put it up because it says so much about how we feel we always need to have this happy face up all the time. Nobody really wants to know how we’re feeling. … So that’s what this art gallery’s about.”

The art gallery was organized with the Youth Engagement Strategy (YES) Project, which is looking to build a one-stop shop youth centre, which would provide services offered by various nonprofits and government agencies in one space, but also provide spaces for youth to do arts and crafts.

Related: Penticton Arts Rising Festival in full sing

But the YES Project still needs to find and build a space for the youth centre, which could take some time. Hernandez said in the meantime the community could benefit from a smaller arts drop-in centre.

And the community has stepped up to the plate, Hernandez said, with numerous offers from various people to do workshops.

“Not just have a class by a child-care specialist, but actual people in the community,” she said. “Artists, we have a blacksmith that’s willing to mentor kids, we have a carpenter that’s willing to mentor kids, we have seamstresses, ladies that knit, some of the ladies in the churches already are willing to bake goods and bring the snacks for the kids.

“Because they want to be involved, and even if this is only an interim space between now and when the YES Project builds up their facilities, it allows the community to work with the kids and get to know them and form relationships.”

That last point may be part of the key to helping kids to avoid things like addictions in a city where drug addictions aren’t uncommon.

Related: Arts set to rise in Penticton

“It’s when you don’t have the relationships, but it’s also when you don’t have a lot to do,” Hernandez said. “When kids don’t have a lot to do, they find something to do. Often it’s not the most healthy things to do.”

And teens in Penticton, she said, are some of the most vulnerable in the community when it comes to boredom.

“If you talk to people our age, there’s a million things to do. If you talk to people that have little children, there are a million things to do,” Hernandez said. “But if you talk to people that have teenagers, there’s not a lot to do, and that’s the worst time to be not having anything to do.”

Hernandez said while there have been people stepping up already to offer support, she’s hoping to see more people finding something they can contribute to the gallery.

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