Summer Reading: Youth-Centered Art Publications

The dog days of summer are about to be behind us and for some teachers and students, that means another year of school has started or will begin shortly. For those of us in the New England and Middle Atlantic states, or other locales where school picks up either right around or after Labor Day; we have a bit more time to get our mise en place. One of the activities we can partake in that will both help us prepare for the upcoming academic year and keep us relaxed and refreshed is engaging in some light independent summer reading.

Summer reading was always a chore for me. Being told what and when to read stifled my overall enjoyment and proficiency of reading. However, no longer being a student (in the traditional sense) renewed my appreciation for the written word. When I was a seventeen year old high school senior, I never would have imagined that reading and writing would be something I am passionate about. But here I am thirty years later writing a blog about education and consistently reading books and articles about art, culture and pedagogy….As an act of leisure! Outside one of my jobs as an academic editor (which I love!), I have total control and freedom over what, how and why I read a piece of literature.

I realize that schools have to adhere to benchmarks and curricula guidelines, but what if we gave kids a choice in what they read when they are in school and when they are on break? Giving students agency to chose from appropriate but non-canonical literary sources, and making reading relevant to their interests, backgrounds and identities will expand their thirst for learning.

There are several examples of publications within the arts and cultural sector that reflect the importance and benefits of child and youth-centered forms of literature. The previous post, The Gutai Group: Play, Pedagogy and Possibility, mentions Kirin a children’s art and poetry magazine published in Japan in the wake of World War II. Each issue featured poems, short stories and artwork made by school-aged children. Alongside the children’s content, the magazine’s publishers, many of whom were professional visual artists or writers, contributed content. The contributions from adult artists such as Tanaka Atsuko, Shozo Shimamoto and Yozo Ukita, supported the publishing house’s belief that children should be free to interpret and give meaning to works of art and literature without constraint or didactic persuasion from teachers and other adult guardians. In a short essay titled “Chikyu wa maruku nai” (aka “Let’s Make Mischief!”) published in the December 1956 issue of Kirin, Shozo Shimamoto contemplated, “I myself wonder if good kids who always do what grown-ups tell them can lose the ability to decide right and wrong on their own.” He then addresses the children reading the magazine, advising them that they can assert their childlike identities by reveling in the act of spontaneous creativity through a playful and insightful exploration of materials. He called this process “healthy mischief,” explaining that, ”The only way to make good mischief is to make your own tools for it. For example you can build a paper screen and break it, or buy a sheet of paper and smear different colors on it randomly.”

The spirit of Kirin is reflected in today’s child and youth centered literary publications. Similar to Kirin, the pages within Mishou Magazine juxtapose the work of children and adolescent artists alongside professional artists. Mishou was founded by Milah Libin who is an artist and animator. The impetus to create a magazine that “aims to validate children’s identities as individuals and artists, and encourage intergenerational engagement through the arts,” was in part, inspired by Libin’s own childhood where she enjoyed freedom and space to create art and view the various cultural sites of her native New York City. Having support and encouragement of adults, while being able to define and experience art in her own personal manner, is exemplified in the pages of Mishou where adult and children’s art is intermixed and given an equal amount of criticality and esteem. Mishou features work by artists ages fifteen and younger. It is also just as essential and engaging for emerging, mid-career and established artists. The magazine features collaborations between generations, interactive sections created by artists of all ages and has an overarching commitment to validate children’s identities as individuals and artists.

Another contemporary publication created via the lens of young artists is Junk Dump magazine. The magazine was launched while co-founders Mia Schoolman, Grace Brouillet and Dlisah Lapidus were finishing up high school in the midst of the academic, cultural and social disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. They explained that in light of the pandemic they “recognized that many young artists and art-lovers were missing an outlet, so we decided to provide a creative space through print media. We created a forum where young creatives can share their work and receive a tangible sense of appreciation for their creativity. Since then, we have grown our community to reach young artists and audiences all over the world.”

Both Mishou and Junk Dump have thematic issues and open call submissions for young artists to showcase their creativity. These interactive and accessible elements make them great platforms for learning about community, culture and the world at large through artistic engagement.

Mishou and Junk Dump each released their summer issues, which you can learn about and acquire below.

Junk Dump Magazine, Issue five,
titled Storage Almost Full. Cover art by Hailey Weber

Junk Dump Magazine’s fifth issue, Storage Almost Full, was released in July so there are still issues available, but take note that they do sell out. The issue features artistic and literary contributions from an international group of young artists responding to the theme of technology, data and the juxtaposition between analog and digital culture. According to the editors: “In this issue, we are inviting artists working in any medium to share their work. We ask artists to question the idea of storage: analog, digital, and even emotional capacity. We consider what it means to be an artist in this diverging time. What does the analog mean to art and artists? What does the digital mean? What role can art play in the balance between the two?”

Mishou Magazine, Issue three, titled Weather.
Cover by Kayla Ephros (age 29) with poem by Violet Flicker (age 9)

Mishou’s third issue is titled, Weather. It features visual art, poetry, creative prompts and interdisciplinary musings on the theme of weather. The editors note that: “In this issue we decided to focus on weather because there are so many different ways to explore it! Through art, science, poetry and more. On page 31 you can follow steps to draw a snowflake, and on page 33 are instructions to make your own wind chime. On pages 41-48 you can learn about Weather in Space, and read interviews with young Climate Change activists that might even be your age! Issue #3 contributors and artists range from age 6 to 78!

Artists featured in Weather are:
Maren Karlson, William Wegman, Zazie Lampert, No School, Bunny Lampert and Niagara, Jasmin Flores, Aeja Monet, Somer Stampley, Livia Charman, Charlotte Kohlmann, Kayla Ephros, Ancco, Sen Tanikawa Oglesby, Avery Tsai, Kayley Chery, Virgile-Minh Perrier, Eden-Emmanuel, Karen, Benjamin, Lailah, Rahat, Wylie, Finlay, Zayne, Polly, Judah, Josephine, Sebastian, Chloe, Maisie, Indigo, Evie, Ruby, Jasper and Eloise.

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