Four Youth Productions’ Art Gala: A snapshot of a better future for students
There is an old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. In the case of Four Youth Production’s Art Sale, Gala and Benefit, a picture, or rather a collection of pictures, could be worth thousands of dollars.
On Friday, Nov. 10, Trabant multipurpose room was lined with long tables and easels displaying countless photographs featuring subjects ranging from the March on Washington to candy. Attendees and prospective buyers perused the artwork as a trio of orchestra members performed. The featured artists engaged with attendees and explained their works.
Sponsored by the Blue Hen Leadership Program (BHLP), Four Youth Productions’ Art Gala is an annual event where Four Youth students sell their artwork to raise money for their college funds. The program, which is based in Wilmington and works with around 250-300 students each year, has been successful so far in its efforts: the proceeds from last year’s art gala alone more than doubled the college fund they had been working on for three years.
Four Youth Productions is a non-profit organization with a focus on the education of at-risk youth. The programs run by Four Youth focus on four key areas: photography, cooking, science and engineering.
“Our goal is to show students the interplay between the arts and sciences and relate the two together,” Nick Martin, a 2016 graduate of the university and board member at Four Youth says. “The cool thing about our organization is that students, at the end of the day, learn how to take professional photographs of whatever activity or experiment they’re doing and those photographs sell at art galas throughout the year. They’re learning to be entrepreneurs and they’re raising money for our college fund.”
This focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) as well as the arts is crucial to the success of Four Youth.
“There’s so much focus on STEM, and I think it’s taking away from the arts,” Julie Millisky, a graduate student who was one of the student planners involved in putting together the gala says. “When you interweave the two, that’s when the magic really happens. We see these kids who have really great backgrounds in both, and it creates such a unique vision.”
For many of the students involved with Four Youth, college initially did not seem like an option. According to Martin, many consider the most practical course to be getting a job after high school graduation to support their families. The role of Four Youth is to help these students aim as high as possible, and provide them with the funds to do so.
A wide variety of artists were present at this year’s gala, tackling a diverse array of topics. Two of the artists were Corrí and Acora Hickson, a twin sister duo who worked together on their ‘foodscape’ photography. The sisters are both freshman at the Charter School of Wilmington, and although they have been with Four Youth Productions for five years, these foodscapes are one of their first projects.
“We wanted to see food in a different perspective than on your plates,” Acora Hickson says.
A quick glance at one of the Hickson sisters artwork seems to reveal a typical beach scene. However, as Acora Hickson points out, the bench is made of pretzel sticks and the sand is made of brown sugar.
The sisters agreed that Four Youth has had a large impact on their lives.
“I’m able to express myself more and I have a hobby,” Corrí Hickson says. She plans on one day becoming a pediatrician, but hopes to minor in photography during college.
“In fifth grade, Four Youth exposed me to the science aspects that I’m seeing now in ninth grade,” Acora Hickson says. Acora Hickson’s experience at Four Youth was so enriching that one day she hopes to take over the organization and expand it to a national level.
While college is a few years away for the Hickson twins, for Mount Pleasant High School junior Leo Duprey, college is just around the corner.According to Duprey, his photograph, “Liquid Flow,” was purchased by Joe Biden last year and sold out within minutes during this year’s gala. Duprey hopes to someday become a Disney Imagineer. Although working with Disney has been a lifelong interest for Duprey, he credits Four Youth for getting him interested in the engineering components of the amusement park.
“I was always fascinated by how they [Disney] were able to make a place that’s regular in real life so magical,” Duprey says. “I’ve always wanted to do something with them, but I didn’t realize I wanted to be an engineer until this.”
This year, Duprey had nearly an entire table dedicated to his art. One of those works was his ‘Candy Collection’, which featured jawbreakers, lollipops and Sweet Tarts in various sculptural arrangements. In collaboration with a few other students, Duprey used pixelsticks and long exposure photography to make what he describes as the “most challenging picture” to create.
The Art Gala was just one example of the impact and opportunities that Four Youth Production has given to their students.
“It opened up so many opportunities,” Acora Hickson says. “When I was in seventh grade, I shook hands with Joe Biden, and that was so amazing. It’s a place where you can express yourself. It’s safe; it’s positive.”