Sonia Frischemeier is the director of operations at Boomerang Youth, the head organization of The Citizen Artist. She said the purpose of the project is to allow underserved youth to express themselves publicly.
“If you get to tell your story, and if you get to come out in public space and express your desires, your hopes and your dreams which is so much of what they wrote, it gives us, as a community, a chance to be one," she said. "Otherwise, there is a lot of labels we tend to put on each other."
Frischemeier said an exhibit of the students' photos is tentatively planned to be held at the Carolina Union of UNC.
Project Jumpstart, Refugee Community Partnership and The Citizen Artist held four workshops in August to introduce participating students to artistic mediums. They worked with Hillsborough Poet Laureate William Davis, actor Sonny Kelly and photographer Rebekah Hutton.
Kelly helped the students to enunciate words and express poetry through facial expressions and body movements. He said the vocal exercises he did with the students helped them become more confident in themselves.
"To watch these kids go from being really quiet and reserved, not sure of what they were going to experience, to now, they are out there, in open air, with strangers walking by, they are expressing themselves with their face, their bodies and their voices, which is really encouraging," he said.
A key element of the performance was the floraffiti stage, which was grass that used to spell out the words hope, diversity and home. The floraffiti was in front of the students as they performed their spoken word. Installation designer Carter Hubbard said she helped with the technical aspects of the design, but the students designed the layout of the stage.
In recognition of their work in designing the layout of the event and the performance itself, Floraffiti, which was founded by Carter Hubbard, won two awards in collaboration with the teams of Refugee Community Partnership and Boomerang Youth Incorporated. Student performer Hikhri Hay said the experience was both academically and personally stimulating.
“I was expecting to learn a lot about the SAT, the ACT and stuff like that, but I learned much more," she said. "I got more than what I expected because I was learning about poetry and photography. I felt like that made me a whole lot better as a person."