Inside Marwen Lab: The Voice and Vision of Young Artists

A lovely article just came out about Marwen Lab on Sixty Inches From Center. It features a description of the program written by one of our students, Lauren. We were so impressed with her essay, we are using an excerpt as the wall text for our exhibition!
Here it is:

Inside Lab by Lauren Auyeung
While many high schoolers will spend their Friday nights relaxing at home or with friends, a few will spend them hard at work in the art studios of Marwen Lab. To put it simply, Marwen Lab is a space of artistic creativity and freedom. For three 8-week terms, highly motivated young artists in Chicago, who have applied and have been accepted, come to the studios of Marwen to work on their own continuous project that exhibits their personal and artistic character. Whether it is in the field of drawing and painting, photography, or mixed media, Lab offers a variety of opportunities for artistic self development and discovery.
Laurel Crown by Lab student Nathaniel Knize ( Image Credit: Sophia Nahli)
Although Lab has three outstanding instructors, the project is very much independent. The students begin Lab with nothing more than an idea, a vision, or maybe even just something they feel strongly about. And no matter how ambitious, ingenious, or insane that vision may be, the purpose of the entire year is to turn that vision into a reality.
The process in itself, however, may not be as clean as it appears. The purpose of the three term schedule is to give the student plenty of time to mess up and start again. The majority of the students end up changing the idea they started with at the beginning of the year, or maybe even switching mediums. Despite the bumps in the road, Lab students can always find a way to get excited and push forward in their project not only from just the instructors, but from the entire artistic community that is Marwen itself.

Chandelier by Lab student Zoe Prekop (Image Credit: Sophia Nahli)
The year is filled with peer critiques, feedback sessions, and general advice in order to inspire the student. This also gives students the chance to view their project in a different way than they originally had. However, there is never a need for a formalized critique session for feedback. Lab is a very close-knit community, and the students are more than just peer-artists, they are friends.  Just by stopping by the person next to them, they can ask “Hey, what do you think about this,” and a new inspiration can come as easily as the conversation. Lab students are encouraged to get out of their studio and learn about the projects of other students, help each other out, and ultimately learn more about themselves as individuals.

Marwen Lab

It's hard to believe we finished our 4th year of Marwen Lab in May! I'm so happy I've been involved since the beginning with this program. To see it grow, take shape and become much more effective and refined over the years has been extremely gratifying. We had our first student, Emily,  who had taken 3 straight years of Marwen Lab graduate this year. It's always tough and this year we had 18 seniors out of 28 students! I am so proud of all of them and can't wait to see what they accomplish in the years to come. As I start a family this Fall, I'll be quitting my staff position at Marwen and continuing on as a freelance teaching artist. I am so excited to start this new chapter and am happy I can still continue to teach and be a part of the community.
Here are some photos from the exhibition, the top one is during our last class of students doing a post-it note critique. The next three are details of Emily's art work. I find them so beautiful and thought provoking. This is a small sampling of her project but you get the idea.







the best last class





At the organization where I teach, most of our courses are 8-weeks long and meet once a week for 2.5 hours. So you can imagine how quickly the time flies. I am lucky enough to be the program manager and a teaching artist for one of our most accelerated programs that lasts roughly the length of the school year (mid-September to late May). We still have breaks between our existing terms but we stay in touch with our students and have plenty of open studio time for them to work on their projects outside of class. Even with all that extra time, the year still feels like it flies by and is over in the blink of an eye and then it's time for me to start planning the next year's program.
This year was a little different in that we built in time to reflect and celebrate our students' work instead of rushing to finish everything during the last class. All of their work was already installed so we had a few different critiques and then some time for the students to reflect on the year. It was so gratifying to hear them talk about their experience in their own words! We took some video throughout the evening, check it out: