AIR Teaching Artist Raven (they/he) talks about teaching art for the first time, his otherworldly inspirations, and that more people should tell teens how special they are.
What kind of art do you make?
Lately I’ve been doing a lot of physical, crafty type stuff. I’ve been making earrings. I mainly do more illustrative work with drawing or painting. I want to make comics, ultimately.
What inspires the art that you make?
Basically things that I can’t actually access. A lot of fantasy-type stuff, other dimensions, and also marginalized experiences and creating what I want to see exist. So like, Black and Brown people in really fantastical scenarios. ‘The strug’- the struggle- and fantasy.
Why did you get involved with AIR?
I have never taught before and I saw it as a good opportunity to do something that I’ve never done and connect with people in a way I haven’t before. I was really interested in seeing what teenagers think about because I haven’t been one in a long time. I consume a lot of media made for younger people because I like to keep my eye on what’s going on. I watch a lot of cartoons, and listen to music, and I like ‘the Tiktok.’ I was also selfishly hoping that it would help bring out more creative sides of myself that I hadn’t really been in contact with. I was really scared, but it was cool.
How is AIR different from other places you have worked?
It’s like 500% more generative than anything I’ve ever done. It’s the only job I’ve done that is actually centered around creativity and celebration of identity and self-expression. There’s not really a lot of opportunities that you get in the workforce to encourage people to be individuals and express themselves in free ways. There is a lot more care and intention involved that’s really special. The existence isn’t to make money for billionaires. It’s centered around the people that it serves, as opposed to working retail for a very long time and working in food service.
Do you have a favorite AIR memory?
I really liked when we did the alien adventure outfit situation and seeing the materials that people chose to use. One teen used a sponge to make a sculpture on the board. I was like, that’s what I’m here for! The excitement of doing the mixed media class is getting to see what people choose to use in different ways. It’s exciting and inspiring.
What is a piece of advice you have for AIR teens?
I wish that more people told me I was special. I kind of want to tell them to have bigger egos. I think my advice is to operate through your life knowing that what you are doing is different from what everyone else is doing. It’s perfect and no one can or should be able to take your specialness away. Have more confidence in being special, especially for marginalized people. A lot of these kids are queer and trans and whatnot. You have your friends, but your parents, your government, and your media are still telling you that you’re not special- all to serve capitalism.
How has working at AIR impacted your own creative practice?
When I am making stuff in the class I have a really good time, which reminds me that I would like to be able to incorporate it more in my regular life. It motivates me to create more, and create for the process and for fun instead of financial gains.
My parting words are that everyone is really good at something and has something to contribute, no matter who they are, that is positive and generative.
You are invited to see “Spider Cheesecake” on display from 1/15/22-1/30/22 at Wrong Brain in Dover, NH! AIR Artists from our fall after-school program created out-of-this-world, mixed media masterpieces that you won’t want to miss. Wrong Brain’s hours are 12-6pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Masks are required to enter the gallery.