Outdoor Murals to 3D Sculpture: the Annual Imaginantes Youth Workshop

If you’ve ever passed by the beautiful Rafael Lopez Community Mural located on the side of the Civic Center  parking structure (the SE corner of Mason St. and LaPorte), then you’ve seen the work created with past Imaginantes Youth Workshop participants.  (Watch the video about the mural project.)

What began in 2011 with that mural has evolved into artistic self-discovery through art, music, theater, videography, and illustration. Each summer the Poudre River Public Library District hosts a week-long Youth Workshop called Imaginantes, a free summer program for local teens ages 13-17 that focuses on modes of artistic and personal expression. This year’s theme, Stories with Heart/Historias con Corazón, features art, painting, and 3D sculpture as the means of exploration along with interactive presentations, field trips, hands-on projects, and a closing ceremony celebration.

Last year's workshop culminated in a teen-produced theater production.
Last year’s workshop culminated in a teen-produced theater production.

“Imaginantes is an inspiring program for our community’s Latino and bilingual teens,” explains Ludy Rueda with the Library District’s Outreach Services. “It’s an opportunity for them to connect to their heritage, their community, and their future. Not only will they delve into art and painting, but they’re encouraged to explore issues they face around their diversity and heritage and to express their stories in a safe and creative environment.”

Through interactive presentations, field trips to cultural institutions, hands-on group projects, and a closing presentation and ceremony, participants learn about their heritage, their community, and the importance of being active members of their community.

Teens participate in discussions, hands-on activities, and interactive presentations.
Teens participate in discussions, hands-on activities, and interactive presentations.

This summer, with guidance from local artist Armando Silva, the group will focus literally and metaphorically on the heart/corazón – exploring emotions, passion for their community, and connection to themselves. During the five-day workshop, the teens will learn how to create a 3D piece of art and how to set up an art exhibition. Participants will also have the opportunity to visit the Denver Art Museum and learn about different careers in art as well at Sylvan Dale Ranch in Loveland.

“It’s an amazing experience to see each teen’s personal transformation throughout the week,” describes Ludy. “Many begin on Monday a bit shy and reluctant, maybe even wondering why their mom signed them up for this. By the closing ceremony, they’re full of energy, confident, and proud of what they’ve created.”

Imaginantes promotes self-discovery and artistic expression.
Imaginantes promotes self-discovery and artistic expression.

Many participants follow a legacy of older siblings and friends who took part in previous Imaginantes workshops. Some even return as program volunteers or as volunteers for other library events. “These kids are real role models,” explains Ludy. “They serve their own personal communities but also the larger Fort Collins community.”

But the participants don’t stop just at being role models and volunteers. Ludy points to five previous participants who were so inspired by their experience at Imaginantes that they decided to apply to college – a path they did not imagine for themselves prior.

One of these college students, Luci, describes how valuable her experience at Imaginantes was, “Imaginantes helped me explore new things like theater, art and music. It also helped me meet new people and understand the diversity around my community. When applying to college I was able to talk about these experiences and that landed me in an amazing leadership program that has given me connections in my college and taught me how to be a leader and make an impact on my community.”

Another past participant, Omar, reflects on his experience, “Imaginantes encouraged me to go on to college through its diverse curriculum of explorations of different subjects. In addition being able to listen to different guest speakers about their life experiences at Imaginantes made me set goals in life that I am still working on achieving.”

Past Imaginantes participants gather during one of their field trips.
Past Imaginantes participants gather during one of their field trips.

The 2016 Imaginantes Youth Workshop is full, but the closing ceremony and artistic presentation is open to the public. The presentation will take place on Friday, June 10th at 6:30PM at the Creative Community Center, 200 Matthews St., Fort Collins. Family, friends, and community are welcome.