The Oakland Projects

Mon, 22 Jun 2020 15:18:00 BST

Youth voices have never been more important for shaping the future. Here at the Whitworth we are providing an open platform for Manchester youth.

The Oakland Projects (1991-2001) were a series of installations, performances and political activism with young people in Oakland, California initiated by artist Suzanne Lacy and many Oakland artists. These projects were borne out of a need to address conflict and lack of trust between local youth and several forms of adult authority, from schoolteachers to police officers.

We are proud to be re-purposing The Oakland Projects for a Manchester context working in partnership with Manchester Academy, Artist Suzanne Lacy, Manchester School of Art – Unit X and Cultural Strategist – Unique Holland.

This project is fundamental to the gallery’s Widening Participation work to raise aspirations for teens who are under-represented at the University. It is part of the Constituent Museum Project, funded by Outset to support transformative changes through collaborative work with our local community.

During February and March 2020, the young co-collaborators explored youth representation in the media. After gaining media literacy skills, the core groups were empowered to take control of their public image. Secondary school students and undergraduates co-developed photography briefs to shift perceptions of youth through portraiture and film.

Since Covid-19, work has taken place on-line in place of the studio. In mid-June 2020, we are hosting a transatlantic discussion between students from Manchester and Los Angeles, USA. This conversation centres around the powerful imagery and photography of Black Lives Matter protests, shared experiences of youth in a global climate and discussions about race, inequality and identity. This conversation is the starting point for an on-line exhibition of Unit X launched on Monday 29 June 2020.

Oakland Revisited Portraits will form part of the forthcoming Suzanne Lacy exhibition at the Whitworth in 2021. As part of this project we have created a Media Literacy Curriculum resource that is waiting to be disseminated to all schools across the Manchester Cultural Education Partnership later this year, enabling students informed control of their futures.