A native New Yorker with an arts education and a passion to pass on his knowledge shares his talents with local students. NY1’s Dean Meminger introduces us to our New Yorker of the Week.
Two years ago, Jason Yoon co-founded 7 Arts, a program that uses art and writing to give teens an avenue to express themselves while discovering inner talents.
Classes meet every Saturday for 10 weeks, with sessions in the spring, summer and fall.
“It's something that all kids need, but especially New York City’s low-income kids,” says Yoon. “A lot of minority kids don't get an opportunity to do this at big public schools. So they come here and they get to ask big questions about who they are and who they want to be."
For the 15 teens who attend this class, it's not just about drawing. They say it's about doing things that they did not think were possible.
“lt helped me get better with my sketches. It helped me get into a school that I wanted,” says Nathaly Proano, a student at Art and Design High School. “I think it's a great thing for kids that want to get more into art, more into writing, to get their feelings out, their emotions out and express themselves if they want to."
“It helps me with my imagination so I can think of better stories that I can write down and put down on paper,” says Michael Lizama, a student at Robert F. Kennedy High School. “Like Jason once told me, art can open doors to a lot of other things."
Yoon began his art career at Hunter College High School and then went onto the Rhode Island School of Design. After graduating he started 7 Arts, and now the 27-year-old spends 12 hours a week running the program with five other volunteers.
Yoon’s experience prompted him to study non-profit management at NYU, which is helping him deal with his biggest challenge so far - funding, since students attend for free.
But thanks to the Queens Museum of Art, the program has more than just a roof over its head.
“One of the great things about the museum is not only are our resources, the artwork behind us and the staff, but the fact that we have a giant building that does allow us to work with a lot of community partners,” says David Strauss of the Queens Museum of Art. “What could be better than to get kids from throughout the city to really discover the art voice inside them and provide them with an outlet for it.”
The class culminates with a group show at the museum.
As for Yoon, he has even greater aspirations. He hopes to one day open a community center for the program.
“A lot of kids get denied the chance to see themselves as artists, to see themselves as people whose stories are really important, and to have one of our students say this is a place that he comes to be validated was really powerful,” he says.
So, for empowering students through 7 Arts, Jason Yoon is our New Yorker of the Week.
For more information on 7 Arts or on creating a program at the Queens Museum of Art, call the institution at (718) 592-9700.
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