Art Inspiring Expression in the Next Generation

To say that Rebecca Carlton’s social sculpture, Are We Listening?, has sparked widespread conversations across the peninsula is an understatement.

The immersive installation/social sculpture took Carlton seven years to make before she installed it at the Door County Economic Development Corporation (DCEDC) building in Sturgeon Bay. It consists of her hand-crafted ceramic birds, 692 of them, each one representing 10% of the world’s 6,910 spoken languages, “many of those threatened, endangered and tragically near extinction,” Carlton wrote.

“The intention of the sculpture[s] is to be inclusive of all, to recognize the significance of every language community and to acknowledge that every voice counts equally,” Carlton told the Peninsula Pulse back in March.

Carlton wanted, as anyone who has visited her sculpture can attest, to inspire conversation – in other words, in my words, to give us all opportunities to listen to each other. So after installing the piece, she gathered together different groups of people – visual artists, actors, business people, conservationists, writers, and many others. Those conversations are continuing.

The social sculpture has also brought out the voices of Door County students, nurtured by the tireless Vinni Chomeau, Friends of Gibraltar coordinator. 

Chomeau finished installation of an exhibit on May 30 that showcases the work of over 380 students from all five Door County school districts. Titled Are We Listening to Youth?, the exhibit is displayed in The Link Gallery of Children’s Art at the Door Community Auditorium in Fish Creek until September.

Chomeau said elementary students visited Carlton’s installation and created work in response to the question, “Are we listening?”. 

“Elementary art students, throughout the county, created origami birds that have flown into soaring murmurations on the walls of the Link Gallery; look for their messages of love written upon their wings,” Chomeau wrote in the playbill for the exhibit. 

A total of 380 students from Door County’s five school districts created art for this exhibit, now on view at The Link Gallery of Children’s Art at the Door Community Auditorium in Fish Creek until September. Photos by Vinni Chomeau.

In addition, Gibraltar high school art students created works reflective of their community concerns, and the district’s fourth-graders wrote haikus while attending a Carlton workshop.

Lastly, I had the honor of leading a workshop for high school students at Carlton’s exhibit space in April, which focused on training our listening skills and writing personal essays. One of those essays produced from that workshop is included here.

What I learned from that experience and this art exhibit – what I believe you’ll all learn – is that teens think of far more than their social media feed. They have depth and passion. They see the world we’ve created and are troubled by our carelessness, our inept handling of the earth and our inability to care for each other. 

What you see on these pages in this June 7 issue of the Peninsula Pulse are some of those artworks from the high school students. A total of 16 pieces were produced and only a few expressed the same concerns about the same issues. The range of topics may surprise you: environmental concerns, diversity, sexual assault, period poverty, LGBTQ+ rights, homelessness, immigration, book banning, religious freedom, drug abuse, gender bias.

“It really gave me a reflection of how they see the world,” Chomeau said. “I learned the depth of their understanding and feeling about things.”

Below, you’ll find the student artwork and their comments about their pieces. You can also enter the keyword “Are We Listening” to see the rest of the pieces in one place on our website.

We also strongly urge you to go to the Link Gallery of Children’s Art and read and see for yourself the exhibit in its totality to immerse yourself in what our children, the leaders of our future world, would say – have said – when they were asked. 

The Door Community Auditorium (DCA) Link Gallery of Children’s Art is open Monday through Friday, noon-5 pm, and during DCA show days,  noon-showtime. The DCA is located at 3926 Hwy 42 in Fish Creek.

Bridget Tepe, Gibraltar School, Grade 11
“One and Only,” collage

The subject of my artwork is the earth and how it is changing with global warming and pollution. We only have one earth and we only ever get one earth, so we have to take action to protect the earth and its inhabitants before it is too late. 

Gwen Sohns, Gibraltar School, Grade 12 “Untitled,” mixed media

The piece I created is inspired by strong religious women all around the world. It is meant to express the hardships they face due to their faith and the sacrifices they make to remain faithful. It is my hope in addressing the issue of religious prejudice that people will be more aware and understanding of those who seem different from them. Today I see so much division between religions. People who shame others and refuse to see commonality. I hope by expressing my concern through art more people will become aware of how they treat others. In this piece I tried to capture the feelings of faith, desperation, solace, and lonesomeness.

Vanessa Demarinis, Gibraltar School, Grade 12
“Forbidden Pages: I Stand Against the Banning of Books,” mixed media

The subject of my artwork is banned books, specifically books that school districts in Wisconsin put bans and or limits on. Having the books on display with burned quotes draws attention to the act of banning books. I wanted to address the political and social issue of banning books. I don’t think that media and content that youth take in, especially books, is the issue that lawmakers and politicians should be worried about. This piece is intended as a call to action to read these books! Growing up in a public school during the firearm crisis in America, there have been many drills and at times incidents. I believe gun control is more important than book control. I’d like my artwork to be perceived as hopeful. I want people to be able to read these books. I do not want their thoughts to be contained. 

Isabelle Sorian, Gibraltar School, Grade 11
“If You’re Living the Dream, Help Others Survive Their Reality,” charcoal and colored pencil 

My art was inspired by the pressing issue of homelessness rising. Things could be happening right in front of us. The people who are beyond wealthy with more things than they know what to do with do not always support people in need. I hope the viewer will take away the message of the importance of acknowledging this issue, and if able, doing something to help those in this situation

Ombeline Finck, Gibraltar School, Grade 11
“She’s Askin,” mixed media

The subject is sexual assault. I added hand prints on her body to represent the people who assaulted her and the marks left behind can’t be easily repaired. Having one of her sleeves pushed up reiterates that it wasn’t consensual. Her eyes are hidden to make her seem nameless and detached from the audience, her lack of identity portrays the many women who are victims. The words, “She is asking for it” are a common phrase told to women to blame them for the assault.

Lauren Lautenbach, Gibraltar School, Grade 11
“Trans Rights Are Human Rights,” mixed media

My subject is the rights of transgender people which are some of the most challenged people in the USA today. Legislation continues to stop them from having the rights they were born with. The argument stems much beyond who can use the bathroom. Trans people’s right to live and be happy are challenged every day and I wanted to show they deserve to be happy in this country. 
Transgender people are having their rights stripped away every day. The issue stems past this as legislation has debated whether or not gender-affirming care should be barred. This bill that meant to target trans people would target everyone. The bill would ban birth control, plastic surgery, surgery for breast cancer patients, viagra, hair growth supplements and much more. It won’t just ban trans people from getting hormones or getting surgery. This is a topic that must be given light. I want the world to understand the value of trans people. 
I could have added sorrow into my piece but adding pride was better. To get rights for trans people we must show them at their happiest not just their saddest. My piece is bright and colorful. It will anger those who are meant to be angered and make those happy who are meant to be happy. 

Canyon Burgard and Jeffer Mize, Gibraltar School, Grade 11
“Not Worth Trying,” collage

Our artwork is inspired by drug abuse. Growing up in STL, I have seen many people abuse drugs and I have seen firsthand the dark side of drugs and what addiction can do to a person and the people around them. Drug abuse is a worldwide issue that I think everyone can relate to in one way or another. We tried to show that drugs are not something to mess with. We hope the viewer will see that drugs will destroy their life if abused.

Vanessa Demarinis, Delaney Fizgerald, Jacquy Sandoval, and 
Braden Sitte, Gibraltar School, Grades 11 and 12
“Troubled Waters,” mixed media

Our big idea is to promote a cleaner ocean. If we stop using single-use plastics we can help reduce some of the pollution in the ocean. In our work, we used plastics and a sea turtle to show how these plastics can affect the ocean and the turtle. Our hope was to make the viewers sad and aware of what pollution can look like and we believe we did just that. 

Mikala Gorham, Dasia Daubner and Lily Nostvick, Gibraltar School, Grade 11

“Puff,” collage
The damaged paper symbolizes the damage being done to the earth.

Kaitlyn Kroll, Gibraltar School, Grade 12
“Polar Ice Melting,” acrylic

Videos of polar bears dying inspired me to create this artwork. My artwork expresses the social issue of climate change. I hope polar bears get a second chance at life and are rescued. I am trying to express in my art that polar bears are sad and dying, and only we can try to help stop the melting of ice caps from climate change. I hope the viewer will take away that polar bears need help. 

Krista Jacobson, Gibraltar School, Grade 11
“Madonna Lily,” mixed media

My work is meant to convey sexual assault and rape. In society, women’s virginity is often represented as a white flower of purity and innocence. I used the bleeding Madonna Lily to represent how women’s virginity is taken from them forcefully. The flowers in the background represent how the victim feels as though they are the only one but there are thousands of other victims. 

Melanie Torres, Gibraltar School, Grade 11
“Period Poverty,” sharpie and watercolor

Period poverty is a problem people don’t discuss normally. As many as 600 million people don’t have access to products. They use plastic bags, cotton balls, makeup pads, nappies, and more. I’ve been trying to get free products available in my school restroom for a while. I believe it’s important to have access to products when you need them. It’s a human right. I hope my artwork spreads awareness since the topic isn’t regularly discussed.

Noah Adler, Gibraltar School, Grade 11
“Embracing Diversity,” mixed media

I made this work to shed light on discrimination of LGBTQIA2S+ people. I am hoping this work will inspire people to advocate for queer rights and equality.  I was inspired by queer artists who use their art to advocate for our rights and equality in society.

Rose Stackhouse, Gibraltar School, Grade 11
“Empowered Women Unite,” sharpie and watercolor

My artwork is about fighting against issues women face and finding strength through the commonalities that unite us. I feel that women face many gender-based issues that should be talked about more. I used a strong female figure as the central focus of my piece. In each of the colored sections radiating from the female figure are true challenges like wage gaps with an adjacent positive solution toward equality. I wanted to show people that we can combat misogyny every day. We can each make a difference. I think women are dismissed for bringing up the issues that are in my artwork, so I think it is important to show people these issues matter. Overall, I wanted to show the strength and unity we can and should have in the women’s rights movement.  

Rubi Jauregui, Gibraltar School, Grade 11
“U.S. and Mexico Border,” mixed media

My work is a representation of the U.S. and Mexico border. I created it to raise awareness on the dangers of crossing and for immigrants who cross for a better future. An element that is the most obvious is the barbed-wire and the texture of the border. 
The big idea behind my artwork is to raise awareness for immigrants crossing the border from Mexico to the U.S. in hopes for better jobs, better living and a better life. A story that stuck out to me that led me to create this work was a real life story of a little girl who was found next to the border with 67 different types of DNA inside of her. This is common to happen in places like the border but that doesn’t mean that it should happen and that it is right to harm innocent people, especially children. I hope that viewers look at my art piece and acknowledge that although it seems peaceful and calm, the border in real-life is nothing close to that.

Liam Lindenberg and Trey Perlman

“Change,” acrylic, Gibraltar School, Grade 11
Our artwork shows the effects of climate change on the environment.

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