A Steamboat youth program is behind downtown’s newest mural
Covering up plywood and other signs of construction in a building in downtown Steamboat Springs is a collection of colorful figures created by area high school students.
The mural is a sampling of what some You Out Loud participants have been learning over the last few weeks and allows the students to express themselves to more members of the community, rather than just their peers.
You Out Loud is a “transformative approach to mental wellbeing for youth in Routt County, through public art projects and community integration,” according to its website, yououtloudroutt.com.
Programs every couple of months allow teens to express themselves while learning life skills and building community. The most recent rendition, “Figure It Out,” was led by Maggie Smith, a Routt County artist, who taught about 15 students about portraits and live drawing. Artist Sandi Poltorak, a former forensic artist, also used theoretical crimes to explore profiling and details about facial features, according to You Out Loud founder Suzi Mitchell.
At the conclusion of the 8-week program, participants created a mural using life-size silhouettes to express how they see themselves or feel. The mural is hanging on the windows of what used to be In Celebration of Kids. The mural will come down at the end of April.
“I think they feel that kids don’t really often get heard,” Mitchell said. “I think that is the whole point of what we’re doing anyways. We want them to feel like they’ve got a voice.”
The silhouettes depict people in different postures and positions, and are designed with a variety of media and textures. Some seem to be casual representations of how the artist feels about themself, but others are deeply personal. Some didn’t want to display their work.
“One thing that I think was amazing, his name is on it, Axton Juneau, he’s had a very difficult journey as a transgender individual,” Mitchell said. “His story is out there for all to see. For some of them, it was a great way of sharing things that are a struggle for them. … I thought they did an amazing job of expressing themselves.”
You Out Loud has been around for about a year and a half and is fiscally sponsored by the Boys and Girls Club of Steamboat Springs.
The first project had about 10 kids, and now the program averages 30 kids a month.
“It’s really grown and the projects fill up really quickly,” Mitchell said.
Next up, Mitchell hopes to have projects focusing on meditation and imagination, photography and the environment. Eventually, she wants to expand to middle school students and have a show that features work from multiple programs.
Anyone wanting to support the program can donate to the club and specify they want their contribution going to You Out Loud.
Shelby Reardon is the assistant editor at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach her, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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