"It was really important to me and there were a lot of people that had cars or parents to drive them and they sometimes didn't show up," said Allison, 16, a student at
"Locust LAB is an opportunity for young artists to get real-life exhibition experience and to get a deep understanding, or at least an introduction, to the way the contemporary art world functions," said
The program began in 2010 with 10 high school students. This year, 24 students from 17 high schools across
"It could have very much failed,"
On the first day, students met and immediately began creating a flier for the exhibit before they even knew what the concept of their exhibition was going to be.
"Thankfully, this year, their flier actually reflected their exhibition very well,"
Students visited art galleries and museums, like Perez Art Museum Miami in downtown
"Whether they end up volunteering at a place like Locust Projects or end up interning for a museum or decide to become a curator, this is about understanding all the different ways you can get involved in the arts," Sheldon said.
For the first two weeks, students pitched ideas and experimented with different materials and art forms but could not decide on a concept until four days before the opening reception.
"For 25 kids to work hard on something, they have to be passionate about it. You can't make a concept that everyone doesn't agree on," said
The young artists agreed on a concept of digital natives, a term that describes a person born or brought up during the digital age and who is comfortable with technology. Their art physically represents digital landscapes.
"When you think of digital landscapes, you think of images like Tron where the undefined world is gridded out into a more understandable view,"
Students used pastel yarns, wood, plaster, metallic grids and cables to construct their pieces. The windows were covered in iridescent paper that cast blue and pink light onto the reception area of the gallery.
"I think the show they made this year is incredibly cohesive, visually and conceptually, for a group of 25 students. It's not easy to do," Sheldon said.
The students pulled through, but David, 17, said the collaboration process was a challenge.
"Artists have pretty big egos and they all want their visions to be out there," he said.
Throughout the collaboration process, students had to present their ideas to one another and sell their vision for the exhibition and art pieces. Allison learned to improve from her peers' well-thought-out suggestions, but critiques were not always civil.
"Everybody had very strong opinions about different things," Allison said. "A lot of us didn't know what battles to fight and which ones to let go. And since people were so strong about their ideas it was very hard to compromise."
Despite the tensions, at a young age the students accomplished something that some artists don't get to experience until much later in their careers, if at all.
"No one realized that this was their exhibition until the last week," David said. "You don't grasp that. This is an exhibition that you, a teenager, are going to make."
Fernandez, 20, also donates art for
"Locust was like a family figure for me," Fernandez said. "I grew up with them." He is grateful for the opportunities Locust Projects afforded him, and he feels a sense of responsibility in giving back to them and continuing to foster a relationship with the gallery and staff.
"I can honestly say I would not be where I am today without Locust," he said. "To this day, when I envision a future of work, it is in the context of the Locust Projects gallery space."
And Locust Projects doesn't just help young, emerging artists. Since 2005, it has hosted 70 exhibitions -- from psychedelic pop art to social commentary exhibitions on female subjugation -- by established local and out-of-state artists.
"We hardly ever say no to artists," Sheldon said. "We're the place they come to tear up the floors and hang crazy things from the ceilings and reshape the walls, and they know that's what we're here for."
Locust Projects is dedicated to giving visual artists a place to experiment with their art and ideas without the pressures of gallery sales and the limitations of traditional exhibition spaces.
The art space was founded in 1998 by three
"We were one of the first galleries to emerge in what is now a very active
By 2000, Locust Projects had its first board of directors and became incorporated. In 2002, the organization was recognized as a not-for-profit institution.
Locust Projects was created by artists for artists, and their mission is to offer a creative space where artists can make their own decisions and not be told what they should do.
"There's a real freedom here," Sheldon said. "There's a freedom for us to respond to the needs and interests of the community, and there's a freedom for the artist to come in and meet the supporters of the community, see art, meet artists and have accessibility."
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