LEO often writes about kids, but we don’t often open our pages for the young people to have their own voices. For this issue, we thought we’d give the under-21 set a chance to speak. We didn’t tell them what to write but offered them a chance to respond to something they found important, and we’re pretty impressed with the quality of their work. We hope you are too.
At the Heart of a City’s New Arts Endeavor: Making Creative Experiences Accessible and Building Connection
Elizabeth Kramer | Executive Director, Arts Angle Vantage
Art and artists often inspire and invite people to participate in places outside theaters and museums we might usually consider — and that happened this year in a few dozen community spaces throughout the city with Metro Louisville’s inaugural HeARTS Initiative.
Launched in 2022, its aim is to bring the healing power of the arts and incorporate local artists’ and organizations’ strengths to nurture unity throughout the city and give people citywide access to creative endeavors. Louisville Metro Government’s Parks and Recreation provided locations with its many community centers and Fund for the Arts provided funding oversight and other logistical support.
During this first year, a range of city artists led these activities and a group of teens got to see some of their programs up close with Arts Angle Vantage. Our youth arts journalism program worked with these teens at the South Louisville and Beechmont community centers to report on some of these creative endeavors. The teens interviewed artists, wrote articles and, with the guidance of photographer Ayrica Bishop, took photographs.
A special exhibit of their photographs runs through Nov. 30 at the Beechmont Community Center, 205 West Wellington Avenue. Those photographs reflect selected programs from Genesis Arts and Redline Performing Arts and contain portraits of participating artists, including Ashley Cathey of The Healing Walls Project; Nicole Hayden of Friends of Nicole’s 50/50 Mentoring Collaborative; Sara Noori, who worked with Backside Learning Center; Jill Marie Guelda of Looking for Lilith Theatre Company; and Skylar Smith, who partnered with Erica Rucker to lead “Exploration of Self.” •
These youth controlled the narrative and created their own play at summer camp.
By Artemis Jones | Arts Angle Vantage Reporter, Liberty High School, Class of 2025
At the final showing of one of Looking for Lilith Theatre Company’s summer workshops, youth perform a play that covers issues they deem important.
“Teachers, I have an important announcement. A.L.I.C.E. I repeat, A.L.I.C.E.,” announces a voice offstage.
“Were we supposed to have a drill today?” asks one student.
“What do we do?” asks another.
“My first thought was, ‘Am I dead?’” says a third. “And I was.”
This is a play written about school shootings by participants of Looking for Lilith Theatre Company’s GirlsSpeak workshop held at Highview Arts Center this June.
The term A.L.I.C.E. used in this piece is one many students are familiar with. It stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. It’s what someone will say over the speakers when there is an active shooter present in the school.
The youth in the company’s summer workshops created this with the help of Jill Marie Guelda. She is a staff member with Looking for Lilith, who led the workshop. It was one of four that Looking for Lilith held at Highview Arts Center in June and July for ages 5 to 14.
The workshop was a part of the HeARTS Initiative. It provides art experiences citywide that promote healing, community connection, coping, and more. The Fund for the Arts provided funding for the company to waive the usual fee of $225 and allow students to get a small stipend of $50 for their participation.
Youth in the workshops performed a variety of things. They created monologues, acted out scenes, designed sets, wrote scripts, and more. They did this all with the goal of examining world issues from the youth perspective. The students used theater to explore hard topics, among them climate change, school shootings, and social media. They used the workshop to spread awareness about concerns that many students have.
“Sometimes it’s those conversations that you have in your kitchen after dinner [that] your children hear and internalize. It’s creating their person,” said Guelda, describing the themes of the productions with the older youth.
The activities in the workshops are varied. Sometimes they involve creative writing to help young people open up.
“We do that in the form of letters,” Guelda said. “You can write a letter to yourself in 30 years, or you can write a letter from yourself from 30 years ago. What kind of questions would you ask yourself?”
She said even the five to seven-year-olds talked a lot about emotions and healthy emotions, such as anger.
“And when you’re angry, there are safe ways to get that emotion out, and that it’s okay to be angry,” she said.
She added that these workshops give young people a way to express themselves which they need so desperately after the onset of the pandemic. It gives them an entry into the conversation many adults are having.
“I think it helped to build relationships with our community by inviting their children in,” Guelda said. “And because their children had such a great time, I mean, the feedback that we have gotten has been astounding.” •
Artemis Jones, a junior at Liberty High School, participated in Arts Angle Vantage’s summer 2023 Community Arts Reporting Lab at Beechmont Community Center. The workshop was part of the citywide HeARTS Initiative supported by the Fund for the Arts and Metro Louisville Parks and Recreation.
This artist made art a family affair for a community of equine workers at Churchill Downs
By Devin Jordan | Arts Angle Vantage Reporter, Central High School, Class of 2024
Last spring, artist Sara Noori led workshops at the Backside Learning Center for equine workers of Churchill Downs and their families, many of whom are Spanish-speaking immigrants. She had groups that were from first grade all the way up to high school, and one group was made up of mothers. They participated in different art projects: drawing, coloring, painting, mixed media, sculpting using Model Magic, and other activities.
“We were just doing something that holds space because they work so hard,” she said. “They work seven days a week, and just being able to get art supplies is so precious.”
The workshops were free as part of HeARTS, a city initiative funded through the Fund for the Arts that helps the youth by providing them with affordable art supplies. More than a dozen other teaching artists held other workshops at community centers and organizations. They led workshops where they worked on groups who created plays, murals, and other creative activities to promote community connection and health.
The supplies that the Backside Learning Center participants received were important for the children of the families.
“It’s like they’re really excited when they get their own crayons or they get to work with Model Magic,” Noori said.
She also wanted them to be just as excited about the art.
While leading these workshops, Noori also found that she was becoming a part of their family dynamic.
“There is a group of people that you build emotional relationships with,” she said. “It’s trust and respect and care.”
Noori graduated from the University of Louisville with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and a focus on studio arts. After graduation, she moved to work in the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago’s education department. She returned to Louisville in 2020.
Her mother, Patrica [cq] Reece Noori, never discouraged her from being an artist.
“She’s just been given these incredible opportunities that really allow her to show the people around her what a gifted artist she is, but also she has her outgoing personality that just really makes the people that she deals with feel so comfortable,” her mother said.
She wants to give others opportunities and encourage them.
Noori would like to work with the people at Backside Learning Center again.
“I really would love to continue to build just relationships so that we can continue to serve the community,” Noori said. “The more that we’re connected, the safer we are, the happier we are.” •
Devin Jordan, a Senior at Central High School, participated in Arts Angle Vantage’s summer 2023 Community Arts Reporting Lab at Beechmont Community Center. The workshop was part of the citywide HeARTS Initiative supported by the Fund for the Arts and Metro Louisville Parks and Recreation.
In Portland neighborhood, youth lifted their voices through improv games and created their own story with a basketball backdrop
By Brayden West | Arts Angle Vantage Reporter, Central High School, Class of 2024
Chaos seemed to engulf a small, brightly colored room at the Molly Leonard Portland Community Center. The youth called out imaginary objects.
They laughed, scurried, and bumped into each other. The participants pretended to hold miscellaneous objects such as balls, animals, etc., and pass them to each other quickly. This improvisation exercise jump-started the session in a positive way.
Brandi LaShay, the leader of the exercise and a Redline Performing Arts youth theater instructor, organized this and many other sessions held twice a week over seven weeks in the spring. Nearly 12 participants came to each session to produce a play with and for youth.
During the session, it was hard not to be mesmerized by how the arts met youth where they were and built them up.
LaShay said the sessions can provide an escape for participants.
“When commotion is happening and the kids are worried about outside issues,” she said, “they are reminded of their worth and encouraged to be present in the exercise or activity of the moment.”
The play they created, “The Bad Basket,” was about a school basketball game. This allowed participants to “express raw personal experiences” in the production of the script, LaShay said.
Nearly 43% of youth under the age of 18 in the Portland Louisville area experience poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This can mean the performing arts can be financially out of reach for many.
The HeARTS Initiative, which sets out to provide easy access to the healing benefits of art in Louisville Metro Parks and Recreation community centers and other organizations, collaborated with Redline Performing Arts to provide youth in this area with an affordable performing arts outlet. The initiative made the workshop free to any youth interested through city funding made available by the Fund for the Arts.
“We serve underserved communities. We are a community action group first,” said Zachary Boone, Redline’s director of education.
The workshop marked an introduction to the performing arts for some of the students.
“This made some of the workshops awkward. They have to acclimate to a new environment,” LaShay said.
Nevertheless, she worked hard with them during the sessions and on the day of the performance. And parents were very thankful that the workshop broke kids out of their shells, according to LaShay.
“Redline just celebrated five years,” said Boone, “and every year, it just gets bigger and better.” •
Brayden West, a senior at Central High School, participated in the spring 2023 Community Arts Reporting Lab at South Louisville Community Center. The workshop was part of the citywide HeARTS Initiative supported by the Fund for the Arts and Metro Louisville Parks and Recreation.
Magic The Gathering: How it builds community and how it’s paid off
By Adam West | Arts Angle Vantage Reporter, Atherton High School, Class of 2024
Rapper Post Malone’s recent purchase of a rare and expensive Magic the Gathering card may have people wondering what is so special about this game. How can a game be so seductive as to inspire someone to pay $2.5 million for one singular piece of cardboard?
Part of the answer can be found every Saturday at Through the Decades, a local game store on Hurstbourne Parkway. Here anywhere from 50 to 200 people regularly come to play a game that allows them to escape the confines of reality and explore one with endless possibilities. They quickly take rows of tables as they come in for the events happening that day.
Alex Spears had a vision when he opened the store in 2012.
“I thought it was a great opportunity to do what I wanted for a living,” he said.
He added he also saw the store could offer something for the community in the games it sells and showcases.
One is Magic the Gathering, created by Richard Garfield 1991 while he was working toward his doctorate in mathematics. Garfield first tested the game by playing against his friends and colleagues. After the 1993 release of the first set, the game hooked people worldwide selling more than 10 million cards in the first few months. Nearly 30 years later, the game has over 40 million players around the world and is still growing.
The game has one-of–kind, powerful cards, many with a vibrant, bold flavor. Magic is able to reach a wide audience by offering a variety of ways to play. Some plays focus on the oldest, most powerful and expensive cards while others on the newest and cheapest cards.
The card that Post Malone paid a massive fortune for came from a recently released set based on “The Lord of the Rings.” There is only one copy of the Lord of the Rings card The One Ring, making it the most expensive card in existence.
Magic players encounter cards all across the spectrum at Through the Decades, which also sells, purchases, and sponsors other games such as Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, and Disney’s recently released Lorcana, as well as a variety of board games and collectibles.
“Whenever I think of playing Magic, I think of playing it here,” said Butch Borgemenke-Batcheldor, a Magic player and Atherton High School junior. “To me, this place is Magic.”
I first played Magic as a nine-year-old at a chess/board-gaming camp at the Yussman Chess Center, which unfortunately closed during the pandemic. (I got a few cards from there that I have since fallen in love with.) I didn’t really have anyone to play with after that camp ended, but returned the year and played Magic again.
Then I heard about Through the Decades, a card game shop where I could go play year round. I made my first visit in 2019.
At its core, Magic the Gathering’s core is a game of chance. Decks are either 60 cards where you can play four of each card or 100 cards where every card is different. There are tons of card combinations to collect and form into decks. Some combinations turn out to be unplayable and others can prove to be powerful.
Matt Higgs is a former writer for Star City Games, a well-known store in Roanoke, Va., that sells Magic cards.
“You can play it competitively, you can do it as an expression of your creativity, which is the primary thing that I do with Magic,” he said. “There’s lots to be learned.”
The card game’s strength comes from its 30-year history of new releases with sets of new, exciting cards. The Magic design team gets creative with the names of cards — such as Bivouac, Phthisis, Scion and Triskaidekaphobia. Then there are imaginative terms for game actions like Dredge, Adamant and Prowess.
This helps boost a player’s vocabulary and can help math skills. Most games of Magic can come down to simple math; the difference between 19 and 20 can be the difference between winning and losing.
Magic can teach people about money skills. The game has both expensive and budget ways for players to play. The prices can even act like the stock market. You have to look at how much something is going for before buying in, or else you may miss when a card or product is at its lowest. Sometimes, a card is found to be playable and the price spikes, and sometimes a card is overhyped and the price drops on release.
Then it is just fun as Magic has an overarching story woven through the cards. Each card tells a small part of that story. Sometimes it’s world shattering. Other times it’s a heartwarming tale. For instance, the cards Tidal Surge, Ogre Taskmaster, Wild Griffin, and Tremor tell stories of how four little goblins became one through a series of unfortunate events.
Mythologies, folktales and history often inspire the cards. “Doomskar” is a Magic event based off of Norse mythology’s Ragnarok. The Magic world has a fairy tale realm where Goldilocks can arm herself with a crystal slipper to take down an evil queen. In another, dinosaurs must coexist with vampiric conquistadors and pirates. There’s even another that tells the real history of China during the Three Kingdoms era.
Fundamentally, Magic is a social game. Outside of a few places to play online, there aren’t many ways to play without talking with an opponent. I have met so many people and become friends with others through this card game.
Among those at Through The Decades are regular patrons and new visitors.
“I would like to be more social with Magic,” said Mae, a new player to Magic, adding that she’s happy this is “a hobby that doesn’t involve screens.” Cam, Mae’s friend, who introduced them to Magic, described themselves as a shy person.
“Playing Magic has taught me how to approach strangers, because I know that literally everybody else here is here for Magic,” they said. “This is where I come to be social and make friends.”
Outside of Through the Decades around the Kentuckiana area, there are other places to play Magic as well as ways to play online.
Over the last eight years, I’ve seen how that original Magic set has become a multinational card game and an important part of so many lives. Magic is more than a card game; it’s a community.
Adam West, a senior at Atherton High School, is part of Arts Angle Vantage and an actor who has been a part of Kentucky Shakespeare’s Globe Players program for two years. He has acted and assistant-directed several productions with his high school theater department. •
Under 21: Opinion
Louisville’s shortcomings in welcoming adolescents
into public spaces
By Grace Fridy and Naomi Fields | [email protected]
Teens across Louisville do not know where they are welcome. From football games to movie nights with friends, constant barriers make it difficult for high schoolers to engage in social activities. High school students are often social, seeking different ways to connect with peers during their free time. These barriers prevent the development of necessary social and emotional awareness.
Football games are one of the few recreational activities students can rely on every Friday night. Attendance restrictions throughout the district this year have created a less than dependable social scene for many high schoolers. Until recently, high schools including Ballard and Male have not required parental figures to be present at games. After a year in JCPS marked by 19,000 referrals for fighting, schools are tightening up rules.
According to a Male PTSA Facebook post, students from other schools must now have an accompanying parent to get into home football games. These adult accompanied restrictions are a common theme across the city, as Mall St. Matthews and Oxmoor Mall adopted a similar policy in 2015. At St. Matthews and its attached movie theater, those 17 and under must have an adult with them after 4 pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
Local malls and high schools have good reasons for limiting adolescent opportunities, as fights and other intrusions have caused general mayhem. In 2015, around 1,000-2,000 teens shut down Mall St. Matthews, after police responded to reports of fights, harassment, and other disturbances. Despite these issues, it is still important that teenagers are able to form strong bonds with their peers. Without locations like the mall, football games, movie theaters and skate parks that are facing increased restrictions, young people will miss out on building connections associated with higher levels of emotional support. In fact, research by The National Academy of Sciences shows teenagers with more active social networks lead healthier lives.
“Football games are pretty relevant to my social life… I usually attend most to all of the home games and some of the bigger, more important away games such as Saint X, Ballard and Male,” Marcell Malone, a Manual student said. Malone’s appreciation of football games reflects the importance of football attendance to Louisvillians, as some high school rivalries in the city date back to 1893. This includes the annual Manual vs Male football game, which usually attracts over 10,000 people from all over town to watch the rivalry game. With new restrictions, teenagers whose parents work late or are not always able to have an adult with them could miss out on attending.
Continuing access to local events for teenagers is an easy way to promote necessary social engagement, and it is likely that it wouldn’t lead to a drastic increase in violence or adolescent caused disturbances. For example, the Campbell Collaboration, a non-profit policy research center, has found that adolescent curfews are “ineffective at reducing crime” and other disturbances. Considering that policies limiting teenager’s engagement in their communities are growing, it is important that local schools and businesses decide if these rules are truly making positive change.
It is imperative that teens feel welcome and socially prepared for their future through community engagement in our city. Restricting teenagers from accessing local spaces will not help interpersonal interaction but hinder it. In order to create a positive youth culture in Louisville, schools, businesses and other community spaces must open their arms to the next generation. •
Grace Fridy and Naomi Fields are students at DuPont Manual High School.
As reports show teens’ mental health decline, some schools provide more resources — and not just during Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month
By Cheyenne Farnsley | Arts Angle Vantage Reporter
New Albany High School, Class of 2024 at New Albany High School, September is presenting our community with 30 days to raise awareness by hanging posters, advertising “be kind” on clothing and signs, and having daily announcements to the student body to combat the swirl of stigmas that jeopardize high school adolescents mental health.
This month is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month, an evolving concept for New Albany High School students with the participation of therapists from LifeSpring Health Systems, which established a clinic in the school two years ago. The clinic has therapists, social workers and case managers to work with students.
LifeSpring staff and New Albany High School students understand the benefits of having mental health resources available here. Among them are LifeSpring President and CEO Beth Keeney and high school senior Laiken Swinney. Both are using their voices this September to discuss the resources available to students in their day-to-day lives.
“Mental health is health,” Keeney says. “You can’t separate the impact of mental health from the health of the rest of the body. Taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of the rest of your healthcare needs.”
New Albany High School has many health resources available.The school’s freshmen take a health class that covers three categories of health: physical, emotional, and mental. There are school counselors who help guide students with special plans that help them cope with their own mental challenges.
Mental health is an important issue, especially for teenagers. Studies in recent years have noted the rise in mental health concerns for teens. But a CDC study released in March reported a high percentage of teenage girls experiencing sadness, hopelessness and at risk of suicide.
The students using resources New Albany High school provides are increasing.
“More teenagers are accessing mental health treatment than ever before,” Keeney says. “Being a teen can be a lot of fun, but it can also be really hard. Having difficult life circumstances or big, challenging feelings can make things feel overwhelming.”
The challenge for many teens can be where to get started. With 15 years of experience in the mental health field, Keeney is experienced with the how-tos of seeking help.
“My advice for teens seeking treatment is to be honest with your care provider,” Keeney says. “There are a lot of places where you can get additional support. Talk to trusted adults who you observe to have healthy behaviors, or by calling 9-8-8. It is a great resource for figuring out what to do next or when you need immediate help.”
Swinney, a student, began their journey by talking to a trusted adult.
“Whenever I’m having a bad mental health day I go to my parents,” Swinney says. “I used to not do that ever. Like when I first started with my mental health journey, I would hold myself in with my misery and despair.”
Not only does Swinney believe that receiving help from close ones is important, but getting outside help is a good option as well. There are many different options depending on what issue you are dealing with. For them, taking these approaches have helped them emotionally.
“Some therapists work more with your physical issues, such as self-inflicted harm,” Swinney says. “For me, mine helps me work with my emotions. There are also case managers and social workers available. If the issue is large, there will be a team of workers to support you.”
Swinney has a very open relationship with their mental wellbeing.
“My mental health is a big part of me personally,” Swinney says. “It has taken me a while to not be afraid to talk about it. I am working on many things with myself, I want to be more open about my feelings.”
Even though many people are more open to the concept of mental health, our culture can attach shame to it.
“There is a stigma around mental issues,” Swinney says. “It’s wrong. It is what makes some scared to seek help.”
With many resources available, this Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month is importance for everyone. No one is alone this month, or other months of the year.
“If you are thinking of harming yourself or someone else, please don’t wait to talk to someone,” Keeney says, “This is a medical emergency — just like if you had a really bad broken bone. Just like a bad broken bone, there are different types of treatments available. But you have to let someone know.” •
September’s Suicide Awareness Month
Local therapists and highschool students work in an attempt to break the stigma around
Cheyenne Farnsley | Reporter
With the month of August coming to an end, 30 days full of raising awareness by hanging posters, advertising “be kind,” on clothing and signs, and making daily announcements to the student body in order to end the swirl of stigmas surrounding high school adolescents is on the rise.
The month of September, known as “Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month,” is a growing concept for local New Albany High School Students and Lifespring therapists. Approaching the month with a wish to cut the stigma, senior Laiken Swinney and Lifespring therapist Beth Keeney are well-knowledgeable of the available benefits and resources regarding mental health. Keeney is playing a helping role in students’ day-to-day lives, and Swinney is discussing the resources available as both use their voices this September.
Students at New Albany High School all learn the three categories of health; physical, emotional, and mental. Keeney understands the importance that mental health plays in others’ overall lives.
“Mental health is health,” Keeney says, “You can’t separate the impact of mental health from the health of the rest of the body. Taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of the rest of your healthcare needs.”
Mental health is very important to take care of, especially for the teenage audience. The statistics of students using the resources given are increasing, which is a positive thing due to the possible struggles teens may have. Keeney describes the changes of clientele as a positive one.
“More teenagers are accessing mental health treatment than ever before,” Keeney says, “Being a teen can be a lot of fun, but it can also be really hard. Having difficult life circumstances or big, challenging feelings can make things feel overwhelming.”
One issue that is faced a lot is where to get started. With 15 years of experience as Chief Executive Officer, Keeney is experienced with the how-tos when it comes to seeking help.
“My advice for teens seeking treatment is to be honest with your care provider,” Keeney says, “There are a lot of places where you can get additional support. Talk to trusted adults who you observe to have healthy behaviors, or by calling 9-8-8. 9-8-8 is a great resource for figuring out what to do next or when you need immediate help.”
New Albany High School has lots of great resources available for many students wanting health. As discussed, Senior Laiken Swinney began their journey by talking to a trusted adult.
“Whenever I’m having a bad mental health day I go to my parents,” Swinney says, “I used to not do that ever. Like when I first started with my mental health journey, I would hold myself in with my misery and despair.”
Not only do they believe that receiving help from close ones is important, but getting outside help is a good option as well. There are many different options depending on what issue you are dealing with. For them, it has bettered them emotionally.
“Some therapists work more with different issues,” Swinney says, “Some therapists work more with your physical issues, such as self-inflicted harm, for me, mine helps me work with my emotions. There are also case managers and social workers available. If the issue is large, there will be a team of workers to support you.”
With this upcoming month, everyone needs to prioritize their own and others’ mental health. Swinney has a very open relationship with her mentality.
“My mental health is a big part of me personally,” Swinney says, “I have struggled with it for a while. It has taken me a while to not be afraid to talk about it. I am working on many things with myself, I want to be more open about my feelings.”
Even though one may be open to the concept of mental health, there is still a swirling stigma surrounding it, playing a large role in the culture surrounding the issue at hand.
“There is a stigma around mental issues,” Swinney says, “it’s wrong. It is what makes some scared to seek help.”
With many resources available, this suicide prevention and awareness month is importance for everyone. No one is alone this month, or any of the months following.
“If you are thinking of harming yourself or someone else, please don’t wait to talk to someone,” Keeney says, “This is a medical emergency- just like you had a really bad broken bone. Just like a bad broken bone, there are different types of treatments available. But you have to let someone know.” •
Cheyenne Farnsley is a senior at New Albany High School, where she participates in the ‘Blotter’ school newspaper, the ‘Vista’ school yearbook, as Design editor, and is an HSJI alumni. When she isn’t taking names or making deadlines, you will find her with her friends, family, or her two cats; Winnie and Heathy. She is planning on continuing journalism after high school, in hopes to continue doing what she loves. Cheyenne wants to spread a message to always be kind, and to know your own and others’ worth.
NOTES: STATISTICS ON TEEN MENTAL HEALTH (a few articles)
• The truth about teens, social media and the mental health crisis
• Latest Federal Data Show That Young People Are More Likely Than Older Adults to Be Experiencing Symptoms of Anxiety or Depression
• Why Are Teens in Crisis? Here’s What the Evidence Says.