By Jennifer L. Warren
POUGHKEEPSIE – For Jadeen Sampson, getting out of his comfort zone changed everything….for the better.
The 19 year old City of Poughkeepsie youth who has been involved with art as far back as he can recall, is a veteran member of The Art Effect (formerly The Mill Street Loft), joining the non-profit art group in 2016. He credits his involvement with the program that empowers youth to develop a creative voice to shape futures and incite social change with much of his growth and success- as both a person and artist. That impact became even more evident in 2020 when the Pandemic hit in March, and an opportunity to participate in something extraordinary for the youth workforce students at the MADLab (Media and Design Lab) surfaced: The design and construction of Black Lives Matter Plantar Sculptures.
“We went to the junkyard and got recycled scraps, designed what we wanted to do on the program Procreate and made a design mock-up and then used metals,” explained Sampson, who learned woodcutting, painting and thinking abstractly during the venture.
“It was really fun, and I actually went from being a 2D artist to a 3D artist and really enjoyed stepping out of my comfort zone; it now makes me want to do more of it.”
That same positive, inspiring energy was evident amongst the other students who joined Sampson in the social justice artistic endeavor over the last seven months. It could be tangibly seen, heard and felt at Thursday’s official unveiling of the project’s pieces at Garden Park on Rose Street in the City of Poughkeepsie. Here, a crowd gathered, listening in to words delivered by those directly immersed in the art project as well as local dignitaries, such as City of Poughkeepsie Mayor, Rob Rolison, beaming with pride as he surveyed the four colorful, beautifully designed pieces containing critical messages on social justice from the City’s youth.
“Art like this facilitates conversation which facilitates change,” said Rolison. “The calming effect can be so powerful, and the City of Poughkeepsie is a community of art that’s filled with conversation and people, things we are darn lucky to have.”
That gratitude extended to partial donors: The Arts Mid-Hudson and Hudson River Housing as well as “I am Citizen” Project which donated the plants used in the youth artworks. The culmination of their efforts is now in the form of a sculpture Memorial Garden (a tribute to Poughkeepsie resident Maurice Gordon), symbolizing the scales of justice, a tree for growth and a stronger queen city. The art, embedded among the plants and decorated with symbolic overtures of strength, harmony and racial justice, carries many meanings and interpretations. The hope is to spark needed conversation and connection.
“This was such an amazing project to be involved with in so many ways,” affirmed David Wong, who was one of two Lead Artists, along with Gabriella Grace, who worked directly with students while overseeing the Plantar Sculptures. “It was just so incredibly rewarding to see the kids go through the whole process of building these, from going to the Home Depot and picking out and buying materials, to watching them come up with creative ideas, to seeing the final products, to the event today, I’m just so proud of what they were able to do.”