Zoë Charlton On Making Spaces for Young People to Create

By Armando Bellmas

A group of high school sophomores and freshmen from FOCUS Garinger visited artist-in-residence Zoë Charlton in her studio here at McColl Center this week. 

She shared examples of her artwork with the teens, along with insights on her creative process and ideas about power and empowerment through form and drawing.

Then, she attached giant sheets of paper to her studio walls and invited to the students to draw life-sized portraits of each other.

FOCUS Garinger students drawing in Zoë Charlton's studio at McColl Center (Courtesy of McColl Center for Art + Innovation)

“It’s important that we make spaces and give experiences to young artists or young creatives to create, quite simply,” Charlton explained. 

“It’s also important for young folks to see someone who looks like them doing the thing that they may want to do or that they may be unfamiliar with.”

The FOCUS Garinger students are part of non-traditional expeditionary learning program connected to Garinger High School. Their hands-on, off-campus activities complement their in-class studies with the intent of expanding their world or learning through experiences such as nature walks, rock climbing, or art-making visits to an artist residency.

Charlton thrives on working with young people, both in Baltimore, where she lives, and here in Charlotte as part of her residency. The outcomes are, at times, beyond what she expected.

“It does have an impact because you expand the kinds of experiences that people see and have."


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