The Avengers better watch out...because there’s a new gang of superheroes in town!
With powers ranging from super speed to super drawing abilities, this crew consists of some of the most powerful superheroes we’ve ever seen in Trinidad. The superheroes are among 21 youngsters with varying special needs such as autism, aspergers syndrome, cognitive learning and other developmental delays who have showcased their artistic skills through Summer Heroes 2013, a charitable art programme which promotes art therapy practice, creativity, leadership and social awareness in children. Their works are part of a photographic Exhibition titled “21 Heroes” — a series of 42 prints and portraits of the heroes ‘as they are’ and in full superhero gear, some opting for capes, masks and some with other superhero paraphernalia wearing masks.
The photo exhibition is the third component of the programme which followed an intensive week-long workshop and an Open Day. The unique showcase continues at Granderson Lab, Erthig Road in Belmont. The show ends today and is being staged by Trinidad Home Studio. The participants are all pupils from the Goodwill Industries who have found creative ways to portray their superhero avatars and at the same provide a peak into their personal lives, their struggles and their strengths. They have utilised recycled materials and have created tie dyed capes, papier mache masks made from old comics, belts and protective devises made from reusable materials like egg cartons, plastic bottles and toilet paper rolls. Each participated submitted a drawing of their invented hero identity in full customer/gear; a superhero name; a list of their super powers that are unique to their hero and a few sentences discussing why they want to be superheroes, why they chose powers and most importantly what good they would like to do with them.
The Summer Heroes annual initiative, which began in 2012, invites children to harness the power of art to see themselves in positive ways and to take up roles in society that can make a constructive difference. The programme combines art therapists, professional artists, social activists and educators with special needs children who are given the challenge to invent their superhero avatars which is their personal secret superhero identities based on their own positive qualities, strengths and talents. They also face their fears. Their task is to name their avatars, create them and discuss their superpowers. Summer Heroes founder Jaime Lee Loy, explained that art therapy uses creative activities to assess a participant psychologically and to achieve a therapeutic and psychologically positive purpose. Summer Heroes, Lee Loy explained, asked young people between the ages of six and ten (older if cognitively functioning at this age) to depict themselves as superheroes while pursuing therapy.
Professionals and groups who worked alongside the young artists include Sian MacClean an art therapist, local poet Muhammed Muwakil, Papa Bois Conservation, Plastikeep, NGOs Share Goodness and The Namaste Foundation, Christopher Riley from ‘Three Quarter Comics’, James Hackett from ‘We Does Draw’, mas makers Kenwyn Murray and Warren Le Platte, Jeunanne Alkins from ESP Junior, Selvyn Lewis from BARCAM, ‘Create With Me Pottery Studio,’ contemporary artists Elsa Clarke and Nikolai Noel, and many others.
Lee Loy explained that the programme allowed not only for creativity but also for learning creations in a fun environment for children: “This year we concentrated on the environment and invited conservation groups to encourage the heroes in making costumes in an old mas style using reusable materials. The Workshop included a full week with art therapists and guest facilitators ranging from various NGOs, artists, oral poets, creative practitioners, mas makers and specialists in character development. They learned to make paper, to create protective talismans from clay, tie dye, papier mache, illustration and painting techniques. The workshop had its development sessions in the morning while the heroes made different elements of their costumes in the afternoons. At the end of the week emerged 21 more self-assured, socially conscious and responsible heroes who understood the link between being heroic and doing good deeds in real life. These children took their strengths and used their imagination and developed it for this exhibition.
“The journey with the children is fantastic. This project started two years ago as a simple project I was doing with my daughter and then I launched it and I’m really passionate about it. The youths really make this project what it is. You can have all the great ideas and plans but if they don’t respond to it and if you don’t really affect them positively it’s worth nothing — they really brought this project for life.
“NGOs had various sessions with them and they discussed various issues and topics like having a sense of purpose and believing in a cause. They had to identify for themselves what a superhero is and what are some of the causes they can contribute to and how they want to protect the environment they live in and not just imagine it in a fun way but how actually work on how they can make these changes at home and in my community.
“A lot of the objectives of the programme are self-confidence and leadership and positivity. Following the exhibition we are having an awards ceremony for them and we are returning their work to them. When we first exhibited at Goodwill Industries they were very happy to see their work. They loved it and they enjoyed putting on their costumes and parading. We actually had a parade for them complete with moko jumbies and we locked off the street and they had a fun time parading as superheroes,” Lee Loy said. More information can be found at summerheroestt.com or on Facebook: Trinidad Home Studio Ltd.