Austin talks | The festival explores art, entrepreneurship
Adults and youth from the West Side and beyond recently gathered at the Kehrein Center for the Arts to share their talents and learn how to put their passions first.
The in-person and virtual music and workforce readiness festival featured live music, pitch competition, mental health panel, vendors, workshops and more.
YourPassion1st (YP1), “a coaching and mentoring platform aimed at helping underfunded young adults overcome adversity and earn money in the area of their passion,” hosted the event.
“We don’t see enough of our young adults truly being offered this safe space to be able to create freely. We see a lot of traditional ways of educating and traditional structures and institutionalized ways of thinking, ”said Chris Thomas, Founder and President of YP1.
“I feel like now is an opportunity in the midst of this civil rights movement and this pandemic to really shed light on how we educate young adults a little differently. “
The event kicked off with live music and included a performance of YP1’s theme song by conscious artist Shanna Williams aka Queen Prophecy. Williams, mental wellness consultant for YP1, also led a mental health roundtable in partnership with BUILD Chicago.
“I put this together based on the fact that I just lost a nephew to suicide… what I realize is that after that people don’t know much about mental health. They don’t know the signs, they don’t know how bad it could be, ”he said.
Williams explained that underfunded areas tend to have higher crime rates, which too often results in regular exposure of young people to traumatic events.
“Once a brain sees trauma, it’s hard for it not to live its life thinking about the trauma all the time and that kind of takes the power away from it,” said Williams, who is also a therapist.
“It is imperative that we start tackling this problem because it is our youth that are losing hope. Many of our young people say, “I can’t see myself going over 21. So I want to help them start to develop and see that there is more to life than what you see, but you also have to be the change you want to see.
Young adults played an important role in the organization and execution of the event, the planning of which took approximately eight months.
“This is not the first event, so I hope everyone can attend the next one because I want it to be an annual event,” said Brenda Dickerson, one of the young adult organizers.
Dickerson connected to YourPassion1st through a friend and said the program had helped her grow her art business.
“I used to be one-dimensional, ‘Oh just art, I wanna do art.’ But now it’s like exploring different areas of my career… working on my business, making money and figuring out what I want to do with my life, ”Dickerson said. “I do murals, I do custom paintings, I do custom shoes, paintings, shirts, everything.”
The 850-seat performing arts center with full virtual streaming capabilities sees itself as an Austin community site for the arts.
It recently received a grant from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) Neighborhood Access Programs to install outdoor artwork outside the building and expand programming in 2022.
“2019 was the launch of KCA, and I walked in there for an event and was blown away. It is such a beautiful space. And for us, having that on the West Side is kind of like the Jewel of the West Side, the Jewel of Austin, ”said Vanessa Stokes, Board Member of the Performing Arts Center.
COVID “has put a little brake on the spread of marketing in the community on so many levels. But I just see this space as being a real community space, which is what we predict it to be. So the community can be a part of what’s going on there and really make it a community theater space. “
The center has already hosted several events, including musical performances, racial reconciliation symposia and other art-focused events.
“Art and culture are a great way to showcase what’s going on in the community, to stimulate people and get them excited about new and upcoming events,” said Stokes.
“I think most human beings love music and art, you know? And it helps bring people together as a community.