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Foster Youth Museum Makes Waves in Santa Cruz


Dear Friend


Wow! Over 4,500 community members visited the Lost Childhoods exhibit on opening night at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History (SCMAH) last month. Since then, more than 6,000 people have visited the nation’s largest collection of art, artifacts, and video portraits about youth experiences in foster care. 


The exhibition is a culmination of a six-month collaborative process between the Foster Youth Museum and more than 100 current and former foster youth, artists, and advocates. Lost Childhoods features personal belongings of foster youth, photography by Ray Bussolari, and four art installations created by foster youth in collaboration with artists Bridget Henry, Melody Overstreet, Elliott Taylor, and Nada Miljkovic.


“Foster youth museum was conceived of by former foster youth from California,” explains Jamie Lee Evans, director of Foster Youth Museum. 


CYC staff and members at opening night

“It was developed while writing curriculum on how to train social work supervisors on how to do more successful social work with teenagers. What we kept hearing from the young people who had written the curriculum was, ‘I have this object that I can bring in and it will help tell the story.’ And from hearing these stories over and over again, I thought, we should make a collection,” she said. 


Empowering youth to share their stories and determine the look and feel of the exhibit were key components of the project since its inception. 


“I originally joined because I had seen many cases of organizations attempting to represent and support foster youth...and again and again I saw youth being sidelined, being spoken over, being patronized, and tokenized and left out of the very projects meant for them,” said Jess Prudit, a recent graduate of UCSC and Smith Renaissance Society Community Fellow. 


“As a proud and protective ‘Smithy’ I was ready to stop that before it even started...I am happy and relieved that I never felt the need to,” she said. “From day one foster youth were brought into the forefront of every idea, every art piece, and the setup of it.” 


Rooted in youth experience, the exhibit is also about taking action. 


“We want to provide a very clear way to take action,” said Museum of Art Curator, Stacey Garcia, to the Santa Cruz Sentinel. “It’s an amazing thing for someone to volunteer to take a big step like becoming a foster parent. But not everyone can take that kind of big step. There are a lot of little things that make a huge difference in the life of a foster youth. Making a birthday cake for a foster youth, donating some school supplies. The smaller things really add up to make a big impact. We try to make it as easy as possible for people to be active.” 


Jamie Lee Evans w/ Asm Mike Stone

Assemblymember Mark Stone agrees. The author of AB 403, a bill that dramatically changed the foster care system in California, said, “through art, we can communicate much more effectively about what it is we’re trying to do and what it is we need to do.” 


“We can not do system change without [youth] voice,” Stone explains. “I look at the exhibit--that’s your voice. That is one of the most incredible ways to explain to decision makers what you’ve gone through. And I challenge anyone who’s had contact with this system to go look in the eyes of those pictures and go look at the words and not be moved.” 


Thanks to a generous grant from National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council, the exhibit will run from July 7 - December 31, 2017. To learn more visit www.fosteryouthmuseum.org


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Press for the Exhibit: 


MAH steps into social activism with new exhibit on young people of foster care 

Santa Cruz Sentinel 


Foster Youth Exhibit Aims for Action 

Santa Cruz Waves 


Take action links: https://santacruzmah.org/lost-childhoods/




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California Youth Connection
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