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In the Cut: A Word from Marcus E. Davis

Marcus E. Davis, Senior Program Specialist with the Chicago Park District, writes about TRACE (Teens Reimagining Art, Community & Environment), the “In the Cut” virtual exhibition, and how they have responded to Chicago’s shelter-in-place order from their home base in the Austin neighborhood.

For over a decade, TRACE (Teens Re-Imagining Art, Community & Environment) has partnered artists who are dedicated to social practice, like our current partners Jon Veal and Jordan Campbell of Alt_, with teens throughout Chicago with the goal of using art to engage, inspire, and persist for positive change. Over that period, our model has evolved at least three times to arrive at our current focus on ways curatorial practice can be adapted, applied, and leveraged to nurture young people as the next generation of cultural stewards. 

The global COVID-19 pandemic has presented challenges not unique to TRACE, but no less disruptive. Our ambitious plans for 2020 had to be scrapped, the in-person community building that is the bedrock of our modality is not possible, and we are moving into an era of fiscal scarcity. It is because of these limitations that I am so proud of the work the creative team at our Austin Town Hall location achieved. 

In the Cut is a reminder of how vital the voices of teens are as we shape our new normal. The work of these teens, supported by dedicated mentors, demonstrates the need for centering youth critically in our vision for the future as they hold the keys for transformation. They embody resilience and can see around corners masked from those of us saddled with the ceiling of adulthood.

I’d like to thank our partners at Sixty Inches From Center who claimed space for these emerging artists to share their work with a broad and thoughtful audience. As TRACE adapts once more in response to the times, I am hopeful this project serves as a window and record into the lives of Chicago teens during these unprecedented times.

On behalf of the Chicago Park District, congratulations to all the artists and much gratitude to those working to keep all of us safe, sane and sustained.

We WILL get through this.

Marcus E. Davis, Senior Program Specialist, Youth Arts & Civic Engagement Arts & Culture Unit at the Chicago Park District

Stay connected with TRACE on Instagram @teensreimaginin.

This was written as part of In the Cut, a virtual exhibition project created in collaboration with TRACE (Teens Re-Imagining Art, Community & Environment) and Alt_. See the exhibition here.

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