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Inside Marwen Lab: The Voice and Vision of Young Artists

For the past month and a half the Marwen Lab students and teaching artists have been kind enough to let me attend their meetings and workshops as Sixty prepared to have our first article created by youth. We decided some time ago that we wanted to provide a unique platform for young artists in Chicago to discuss the work they are doing. The students of Marwen Lab immediately came to mind. I’ve worked as a teaching artist at Marwen for the past year and am continually inspired and impressed with the talent and dedication that comes out of the Lab program. So what is Lab, you ask? I’ll let the students tell you themselves.

Lab student Jennifer Mogollan (Image Credit: Luis Mejico)

Contributing Lab students are Lauren Auyeung, Luis Mejico as well as an audio interview with Queion Swift.

Inside Lab by Lauren Auyeung

While many high schoolers will spend their Friday nights relaxing at home or with friends, a few will spend them hard at work in the art studios of Marwen Lab. To put it simply, Marwen Lab is a space of artistic creativity and freedom. For three 8-week terms, highly motivated young artists in Chicago, who have applied and have been accepted, come to the studios of Marwen to work on their own continuous project that exhibits their personal and artistic character. Whether it is in the field of drawing and painting, photography, or mixed media, Lab offers a variety of opportunities for artistic self development and discovery.

Laurel Crown by Lab student Nathaniel Knize ( Image Credit: Sophia Nahli)

Although Lab has three outstanding instructors, the project is very much independent. The students begin Lab with nothing more than an idea, a vision, or maybe even just something they feel strongly about. And no matter how ambitious, ingenious, or insane that vision may be, the purpose of the entire year is to turn that vision into a reality.

The process in itself, however, may not be as clean as it appears. The purpose of the three term schedule is to give the student plenty of time to mess up and start again. The majority of the students end up changing the idea they started with at the beginning of the year, or maybe even switching mediums. Despite the bumps in the road, Lab students can always find a way to get excited and push forward in their project not only from just the instructors, but from the entire artistic community that is Marwen itself.


Chandelier by Lab student Zoe Prekop (Image Credit: Sophia Nahli)

The year is filled with peer critiques, feedback sessions, and general advice in order to inspire the student. This also gives students the chance to view their project in a different way than they originally had. However, there is never a need for a formalized critique session for feedback. Lab is a very close-knit community, and the students are more than just peer-artists, they are friends.  Just by stopping by the person next to them, they can ask “Hey, what do you think about this,” and a new inspiration can come as easily as the conversation. Lab students are encouraged to get out of their studio and learn about the projects of other students, help each other out, and ultimately learn more about themselves as individuals.

Audio: Queion Swift (click to listen to Queion discuss his experience throughout Marwen Lab.)

Thank you to the amazing Lab students and the phenominal Lab teaching artists Katie Rodrigues, Kate Adams, and Christian Ortiz.




Lab teaching artist Katie Rodrigues with Lab student Liliana Alfaro (Image Credit: Luis Mejico)

Artwork by Lab student Marissa Macias (Image Credit: Sophia Nahli)

Lab students Wyatt Buescher and Lucas Bautista (Image Credit: Luis Mejico)

Lauren Auyeung busy at work. (Image Credit: Sophia Nahli)

Marwen Lab Exhibition: June 14, 2013. 5-7pm.  833 North Orleans Street, Chicago, IL 60610.

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