Students Voice their Thoughts and Hopes about Race Through Art

Over 50 local students from 14 schools contributed their voice and perspective to a large art piece currently on display at Berks County Community Foundation by the Youth Volunteer Corps (YVC) program to address racism with non-violent direct action.

The display was created in collaboration with local artist, Robert Pepper, who recreated the students’ “Stand Together Against Racism” (STAR) logo as an 8X16 foot, three-dimensional platform on which to amplify youth voice.

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The students’ art consisted of short sentences and images embodying their thoughts, experiences and hopes about race and our path forward. The students’ words and art were then incorporated onto the surface of the three-dimensional structure. The piece, entitled “YVC Voices for Justice, Equality, and Inclusion” is a powerful expression of the students’ collective consciousness.

Volunteers build the display from in the Berks County Community Foundation lobby.

“The idea of covering the structure with artistic statements personal to the participants, in a sense obliterating it as well as metamorphosing it, [is] quite a powerful statement … my objective is to strive to help the community realize itself through an artistic endeavor, I feel my only job is to help provide a platform upon which [the students] can achieve that.” said artist Robert Pepper about the collaboration.

A handful of students were on hand this weekend to help complete the piece and affix the images. Karleigh Patton, an Exeter High School senior and core member of the STAR program said, “There is nothing more powerful than having people of all backgrounds come together to create something like never before… I can only hope that it gives even the slightest glimmer of what STAR truly means.”

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Olivia Caraballo, a seventh-grade student from Reading Central Middle School said, “Participating in [this program] helped me gain the confidence to be able to combat racism… 2020 was a rough year. So many lives were lost and so much hate was going around, [participating in] STAR was my chance to do something about it.”

The public art piece is part of a larger youth-driven YVC movement to address racism in our society.

“The students’ words on this piece speak as a powerful testament to this youth equity movement and their desire for positive change. The structures created by the artist have given them a large and visible platform for their voices.” said Christi Terefenko, executive director for VOiCEup Berks.

The work will be on display through the front window of the Berks County Community Foundation building at 237 Court Street throughout February in honor of Black History month.

Following this exhibit, the piece will be looking for a permanent home to be selected.

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