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'Conversation Pieces' youth exhibit to open in Livermore this weekend

Tri-Valley Writers student members contribute work honoring authors with local ties.

A new invitational youth exhibit titled "Conversation Pieces" is headed to Bankhead Plaza in downtown Livermore this weekend. 

The exhibit, conceived by Livermore artist Thomasin Dewhurst, brought together young artists from throughout the Tri-Valley to collaborate on a series of hand-painted banners in "diversely individual and personal ways," according to organizers.

"I wanted to do something that would beautify the community and get people to work together, so you get this community spirit and you feel that you're actually making contact with other people," Dewhurst told the Weekly of her vision behind the project.

"Also, as an outdoor exhibit -- mainly I wanted that because of COVID -- but then also being outdoors it's welcoming to everybody whereas an indoor exhibition kind of feels exclusive," she said, adding that the exhibit is meant to reach the community and bring people together.

Dewhurst works with youth as an art instructor and she said she recognized that her students had a lot to say and skills to share, so she decided to invite other local youth to get involved in the project and give back to their community and represent the organizations they're a part of.

Some of the participating groups include the Pedrozzi Foundation scholarship recipients, Quest Science Center, JazzLabb/Element 116, Del Arroyo 4-H Club and Dewhurst's own art students.

The banners will be on public display beginning Sunday (Oct. 17) and exhibited through the end of the month. The opening event is set for 3-5 p.m. and will be open to the public. Dewhurst said that the participating organizations will have tables set up at the event with flyers and members providing information about their respective groups.

The Tri-Valley Writers (TVW) -- a regional branch of the California Writers Club (CWC) -- was among the local organizations selected to be involved in the project.

The group sought participation from its student members and its 2021 high school writing contest winners to contribute to the group's banner, which honors notable writers associated with CWC and TVW, including Jack London, Andy Weir, Ann Parker and Kanchan Naik, the 2019-2020 Teen Poet Laureate for the city of Pleasanton, according to TVW president Jordan Bernal.

Bernal said that the project was a unique opportunity for their young members to connect and collaborate with each other in person and meet other writers and artists from other schools and organizations, which they hadn't previously been able to do due to pandemic restrictions.

Over the course of about two weeks, the students used their own prose, poetry and artistic skills to create life-like images of each author.

"I really enjoyed working on the banner project and felt like it gave a voice to the youth of our community to express our opinions through an artistic project," said Rohan Chandran, a senior at Monte Vista High School and two-time TVW essay competition winner.

"My words on the banner related to my essay on 'Keeping Down the Negativity,' about how our society has developed a propensity to value negative experiences more than positive ones and how there is a need for all of us to go on a 'low-bad' diet by limiting our 'consumption' of negative news," he added.

Mikayla Marinko, a junior at Livermore High School, told the Weekly that she has been recognized by TVW in the past for her poetry. She said she was glad that TVW reached out to her and proud to have helped create the banner for "Conversation Pieces" because it turned out "amazing."

She contributed two of her original poems to the banner, including one titled "Depresion," which aims to spread awareness about mental health and another called "Not All Men" that focuses on sexual assault awareness.

"I'm really looking forward to people being able to see (the banner) because it's so cool and it definitely is a conversation piece because if you look at the images, it's one thing, but then when you start reading the words it really adds to the whole experience," Marinko said.

Upon leaving Bankhead Plaza at the end of the month, Dewhurst said the exhibit is set to move to Marilyn Avenue Elementary School in December, then Wente Vineyards in February for an event and possibly the Livermore Library after that. With each new location, Thomasin will offer art workshops and collaborative projects to other community groups.

Dewhurst said one of her goals is to eventually display the exhibit in neighboring cities, including Pleasanton and Dublin.