Self Help Graphics & Art Launches Its First Youth Committee

By: Miranda Ynez & Gabrielle Garcia


Self Help Graphics & Art is proud to introduce its newly established Youth Committee, a paid youth fellowship where burgeoning youth leaders from Boyle Heights and the greater LA community come together to gain experience in civic engagement and advocacy. Through this professional development experience, participants will receive training to create and lead programming for other youth to increase the awareness of community health issues, youth incarceration, restorative justice in education, LGBTQ+ advocacy, and more.

The inaugural Youth Committee is a cohort of 10, comprised of youth ages 16 to 24 years old. They are Hélène Philippe, Anaís Orozco, Jake Montoya, Karla Jacome, Gabriella Claro, Samantha Nieves, Oscar Dominguez, Aimee Martinez, Milo Woods, and Arlene Campa. The SHG Youth Committee will serve in an advisory role as well, developing critical youth programming to activate the SHG space for youth initiatives and the many issues that youth face in the community in 2019 and 2020. The Youth Committee members were selected from a pool of applicants across the City of Los Angeles. This summer, the Youth Committee participated in a two-week rigorous retreat where they engaged with local art administrators, managers and artists to learn about different issues youth face in the community. Some of the workshops were facilitated by SHG partner organizations, such as Tonalli Studio, Legacy LA, The Wall Las Memorias Project, Mi Centro, ELACC, and more! 

Q&A with Five Youth Committee Members

Where’s home for you?

Aimee Martinez: Home is honestly here in Boyle Heights.

Oscar Dominguez: Home is Pico Union neighborhood. But, I grew up on the west, south and east side of downtown.

Samantha Nieves: Home for me, I would say is East Los Angeles. But, I believe home is where the heart is, which I believe. So, anywhere I can make art is home for me.

Anais Orozco: Home for me is definitely south east LA.

Jacob Montoya: Home is East LA for me.

How old are you?

Aimee Martinez: I’m 17.

Oscar Dominguez: 24.

Samantha Nieves: I’m 18.

Anais Orozco: I just turned 22.

Jacob Montoya: I’m 23.

What school do you go to or did you go to?

Aimee Martinez: I go to Sequoyah High School all the way in Pasadena.

Oscar Dominguez: I went to Santa Monica College and then transferred to UC Santa Barbara. And that's where I graduated from.

Samantha Nieves: I did go to Garfield High School.

Anais Orozco: I graduated in 2014, from South Gate High School. I kind of played around with going to college, kind of bounced back and forth between different colleges and took a break for a couple of years, trying to figure out what I wanted to do career wise. But, right now I'm attending ELAC.

Jacob Montoya: I currently attend Pasadena City College.

Is this your first time at Self Help graphics & Art?

Aimee Martinez: It is. 

Oscar Dominguez: Yes.

Samantha Nieves: It’s not.

Anais Orozco: So in the past, I've attended when they have Dias de los Muertos events here, but as far as being in official program, yeah, this would be.

Jacob Montoya: No. My first time at this location, but I grew up going to the original location on Cesar Chavez.

How did you hear about the Youth Committee Program?

Aimee Martinez: So I heard about the Youth Committee program through a friend who also goes to my school. She sent me the file actually to apply. And she told me that it would be a good starting ground for me because of the work that I do at school.

Oscar Dominguez: At first, it was through social media. I follow Self Help Graphics. And then I also met Miranda at the Invest in Youth conference. 

Samantha Nieves: Well, after took their printmaking summit workshop in April, I decided to follow them on social media. And I saw that they were doing this, which was an amazing opportunity. It sounded so cool. And it was so cool. 

Anais Orozco: It was actually through Instagram, which I think is really funny and interesting and cool at the same time. It just goes to show you how social media is just a really powerful networking tool, especially in the lives of creatives and artists who kind of rely on it, in a world where they're constantly told that their craft is invalid, or that they need to find a “real” profession.

Jacob Montoya: Through Instagram. I saw it posted online. I have been following them for a while for the S.O.Y. Artista program and then I saw the Committee posting.

What are some of your short and long term goals?

Aimee Martinez: My long term goals really would be I just want to get out there in terms of my art. I'm a big illustration fanatic. So I like doing 2D sketches, animations kind of stuff. So my long term goal was to have some sort of career in that field. And honestly, in terms of short term goals now is get through like my last year of high school, and get into an art college.

Oscar Dominguez: Short term is to learn more about the history and the community and learn about the community leaders, professionals, artists that have already been here in the previous generation. So to update myself on that history, while building a network with those artists. And then also building a network with the new upcoming artists: young Latinx, or people of color artists, on the east, south side, and the west side of downtown. So that's my short term, and then long term is to then move into independent filmmaking projects, and getting into community organizing with any local nonprofit organization or political campaign.

Samantha Nieves: Short term goals would be to build on my brand and just produce. My long term goals are to do journalism, to travel, and write about artists and share their stories.

Anais Orozco: Some of my short term goals would be to continue with local organizations, helping them facilitate programs. So I’m definitely going to continue here at Self Help. But, I've also been active at Mi Centro, the Latino equality alliance, which is just down the street. So, definitely continuing to be involved in local organizations. Long term, since I live in southeast LA, there's definitely a lack of organizations—definitely not the way we see here in East LA, where it's blooming as far as organizations and different programs for youth outreach. It's just amazing. But in southeast LA, there's definitely a lack of that. So I'm really hoping to start my own organization dedicated to bridging the gap between youth involvement and then arts in political activation.

Jacob Montoya: Short term goals would be to establish a recurring workshop series here at Self Help Graphics with the Committee. And then long term would probably be... I want to open a community center. I have a brand that I run, like a company kind of thing. And I want to run a community center through that in East LA. 

What is your interest in art?

Aimee Martinez: So I started drawing a very, very young age. Honestly, I started drawing as a way to sort of cope. A lot of things happened, which I didn't want to be part of it. And I think for me, drawing really did help take me into a place of sort of knowing that it doesn't matter what people think of you, your art is always going to be there. I started realizing that I really did enjoy art. And I started pursuing it more in terms of school, when they started giving you the options to pursue that. For me, one of my most favorite things, in terms of art, is creating these worlds that, though, might seem a lot different than yours, and might seem like sort of fantasy, and that can never happen, adding those elements of realism into it can really make a difference and can really make an impact. So definitely, what I hope in terms of art, for me in the future is mixing my interest in my method of art, while also making some sort of statement because art shapes you, and so does everything around you. 

Oscar Dominguez: My interest in art comes through filmmaking and acting. It stemmed from just growing up and being surrounded with that type of media. But for me, it's all about the message and the purpose that you can convey to the world through storytelling. And I just want to increase representation of all the groups within the Latinx community. So I want to do that through storytelling. And at the same time, also, I’m more about growing with my community and not going into the Hollywood culture and industry directly. I want to come from my community and do the work with members of the community.

Samantha Nieves: I believe art is healing, it’s the word that comes to mind. And I'm very spiritual. So it always goes back to healing so that you could be the best you and the best creator you could possibly be. So art it’s expression, it's healing, its strength.

Anais Orozco: My interest in art definitely started when I was really little. I come from a really creative background. My dad is a graphic designer, he also does illustration. My mom is a photographer, and then my family in Mexico and Mexico City, a majority of them are artists, too. So definitely, I was always surrounded by that, and visiting museums and traveling and having the exposure of different artists and their craft was very much there for me when I was little. So I think more or less, I've always had an idea then that I've always wanted to do something with art. Ever since a young age, painting, mostly painting graphic design, as well.

Jacob Montoya: My interest in art… I think at its core being able to see something and then you just make it. Everybody has that in them, but not everybody explores that being able to like process, imagine something, and create something from nothing. Which I think is really cool. And I think my interest in art also ties into the fact that I've always really liked politics of art. Art has always been involved in any social movement. And I think that's pretty cool, as a tool.

What do you want to get out of the program?

Aimee Martinez: What I really want to get out of the program is... I personally got in trying to find something to do with myself. Because at first, it's like, “alright, that's cool. You're making art for yourself and everything,” but I think maybe we should start reaching out. And really, what I would like to get out of this is being able to come back to my own space, to my own home, and to my own school with these new ideas of ways that people can make a difference. I feel like a lot of these places people don't know, or just don't really have the time to do it. And I think if we have at least maybe a group like we have with the Committee going out and teaching people that they can make a difference in these ways. I think that's a really great starting point.
Oscar Dominguez: Network, relationships, understanding of the history of the community, understanding of Self Help Graphics, understanding of the individuals who've already contributed to the community. I also just increased my vocabulary and knowledge of all these subgroups within the community, such as the LGBTQIA+ community. Also learning about where youth are at mentally, emotionally, spiritually, in this current time going through the issues that we're going through. And also learning more about specifically what the issues are that we're going through as youth because my issues are different than everyone else's. But, we also have similarities, but also differences. So I just want to make sure I am fully aware and respectful of those all those issues.

Samantha Nieves: I would like to gain further assurance that, although what I'm doing may be crazy and it's not fully sustainable, it might not be, I just want to meet people who have already been successful in this field and who are already doing the things that they're doing. That's just what I'm looking to find for myself.

Anais Orozco: I want to learn how to connect with other folks who are in the same position as me. I think this program has definitely opened my eyes as far as how in depth these current and relevant issues are: youth incarceration, there's a lack of resources, the school system is pretty much in shambles right now. This program is kind of making me want to learn how to go full force, and how to engage other youth to be a part of that movement and how to talk to them and uplift them and motivate them to want to continue, not just like a one time thing, but to have an active role in this.

Jacob Montoya: I want to get applicable organizational skills. I want to learn from this... I've already gotten also network, a really good network of a lot of different artists. But then, the organizational skills from all these orgs that we've been working with, funnel that into some umbrella cause working towards something. So being able to organize.

What do you hope to do with the tools you learn from the program?

Aimee Martinez: I definitely hope to reach out to a lot more youth. And I know that's in the long run, especially what we're trying to do. But it's really nice to know that there's people that are still interested in art because I know that's one of the big problems here is the lack of resources that a lot of kids have. It's a way to give back to, for me, to community that has really shaped who I am, directly and indirectly.

Oscar Dominguez: Provide solutions to the issues that are affecting youth in our communities of color. So provide solutions and provide more resources and mentorship to other upcoming youth, and to make a bridge between millennial Gen Z with baby boomers and the Generation X. So, bridging the intergenerational relationships. And then also spreading the awareness of the work that's being done here to the rest of our communities, especially those who don't have the privilege to be here. Then just also creating new spaces that are influenced by the tools and understandings and experiences that I have gained here.

Samantha Nieves: Overall, I hope to bring it back to my community and help them heal because yesterday I learned about intergenerational healing and the fact that we have to decolonize ourselves. It all goes back to identity as well because once we know who we are, so much power lies in that. We could create anything.

Anais Orozco: I just want everyone to have equal resources. There's like a couple of folks in the fellowship program who are in high school, which I think is amazing. When I was in high school, there was literally nothing like this that existed. We were very limited as far as resources. And it's crazy, because I graduated in 2014, which is not that far off. But I really want everyone to have equal resources, and I want the youth to know that they're not limited in their options, and that they really are worth more than the tools that they're being given. And they might have to fight for it. But I mean, in the end, it's definitely all worth it.

Jacob Montoya: Change policy. I want to work from the ground up, and then work from the system out. We were talking in one of the workshops that we're constantly reactive, everything's being done to us, and we have to respond to it. So getting to a point where we can be proactive and start making things so that we don't have to be on guard all the time. Not all of our art has to be political. We can create first.

What did you enjoy the most during the retreat?

Aimee Martinez: I really enjoyed the guest speakers. They had a lot of things to say that are very interesting. A lot of the places that I've gone to that have these youth empowerment programs, they usually say things about making a difference and ways that you can really start gathering or bringing awareness to the table. But, the way that they taught us here in the Committee was a lot different because they dove in deeper into their subject matter and what they've done. Also, they were very inclusive to the age range that we're in, despite the fact they're much older than we are. So I think them being able to hype us up to make a difference was probably one of the best feelings in the Committee.

Oscar Dominguez: Getting to listen to other artists and people who established organizations in the community and have worked with community members. So just really just being an apprentice of all these artists that we were able to listen and watch and learn from and just connecting with all the other Youth Committee members. And again, for me, it's really important to listen and through the have that sense of empathy and grow that sense of empathy for one another. I understood what that fully met through this experience, being able to share my personal experience with art in my life, and also to hear everyone else's experiences and then also learning from the older generation.

Samantha Nieves: I enjoyed the last two workshops with Quetzal and Joe Galarza. These two men really opened my eyes and helped me see that there's some people who aren't getting the nourishment they need for their healing and for creation. At the same time, people don't think that they're wounded. But, like I said, intergenerational healing or parents... it goes really deep. Thinking about that, and like thinking about where I'm at now. I enjoyed those two those last two days because it made me think about my identity a lot and how the fact that I don't even know myself and that's okay. I could create myself as long as there's healing involved.

Anais Orozco: Definitely being vulnerable, which is a first for me. I'm not the first person in the world to want to be vulnerable and be open. But, the bonding experience was amazing. And even, it's through little things, like through icebreakers and just friendships and bonds that form over time. That bonding experience.
Jacob Montoya: The networking, I enjoyed meeting people. It's easy to like feel alone in the thoughts of, “Oh my god, there's so much to do, and I want to help so badly, but how do I even get started?” You kind of feel alone in that battle too, like the world doesn't give a damn about itself. But then you come here and you meet people, “Oh, there's people invested in this too.” People are working for the greater cause, for the greater good. There's still good artists who have detached themselves from their ego to the point where Grammy Award winners are here doing work. And it’s dope to see that that doesn’t change everywhere. 

What music are you listening to right now?

Aimee Martinez: I have a really big range of music. So like one day, I'll be listening to my own sort of rock in Spanish. And then the next day, I'll be listening to some other foreign language. I'm really interested in different kinds of music. I mean, if it sounds good than you listened to it.

Oscar Dominguez: I'm listening to Burna Boy. He's an African artists. Mostly listening to Jay Balvin and Bad Bunny. Listening to remixes, Columbia electronic music. Mostly the genres are, reggaeton, cumbia, corrido, hip-hop, trap, and indie.

Samantha Nieves: Oh, I've been listening to a lot of Bobby Oroza. He's a really good singer. He sounds very much like old school, but it's very modern. So I suggest that for you. His new album is called This Love. Sounds very oldies vibe.

Anais Orozco: A lot of Spanish music. So a lot of like old like Bossa Nova, Caetano Veloso, Natalia Lafourcade, basically, that's like my top two right now.

Jacob Montoya: I’m listening to a lot of Nipsey Hussle, a lot of stuff that I identify with coming from the hoods of LA, like South Central or Mid City, versus East LA. It's a similar story of struggle and just that kind of “rise above” mentality, use your gifts for the greater good. I started listening to a lot more corridos after one of the workshops, and listening to the deeper story. So that's pretty funny.

What’s one of your favorite visual artists right now?

Aimee Martinez: I'm really interested in a lot of the artists that have made murals and who have been part of movements. Currently, I'd have to say it's either between Gronk and David Botello, mainly because they have murals where I used to live at and it's just really nice seeing them every once in a while.

Oscar Dominguez: Spike Lee, I think definitely is the one who's motivating me right now. But in general I’m inspired by African American cinema. I think they're really leading the people of color movement when it comes to filmmaking and showing how to establish those relationships with the white industry and white audience. And also how to stay authentic to our storytelling, authentic to what we're really going through and our realities. So I think African American cinema and anyone that has been leading that as of now, Jordan Peele, Ava DuVernay.

Samantha Nieves: After seeing Joe's work, I would probably say him. He was talking about his work and just showing it alone, I felt it and it made me tear up too, so I think that art that makes you feel something I resonate with, and that could be anything truly.

Anais Orozco: That is a hard one. I would have to say, I think she's local too, her name is Amelia Cruz. But she I saw her work for the first time I think it was Avenue 15 in Highland Park. And it was just mind blowing because the piece was very realistic, but it incorporated this really dreamy, and just kind of raw element into it. I could instantly relate to it and I definitely felt the feeling behind that. And every time she comes out with a new piece, I'm just in awe. More and more every day, I'm just shown that we're definitely coming up as people of color, as artists of color, whereas we were shunned in the past. Definitely her would be the main name that is standing out to me right now.

Jacob Montoya: This guy, Gustavo Rimada. His Instagram was @arte_de_gustavo__. And he's a painter and he does a lot of Chicano imagery. I think he's from Highland Park, but now he lives in San Diego, something like that. He does all acrylic paintings, but he blends it insanely. It looks like oil. It's beautiful.

We are excited to see the Youth Committee grow throughout the year, support their individual leadership growth and their motivating programming for other youth to get involved at SHG. These are the next generation of leaders who will heal, educate, and inspire or communities. Join us in welcoming our Youth Committee and supporting their growth as part of our legacy! Find out more information about our youth committee here.

Miranda Ynez is a Self Help Graphics & Art Project Manager and an Arts Management professional committed to increasing participation in the arts and culture through our local communities. Gabrielle Garcia is a Self Help Graphics & Art Getty Marrow Undergraduate Intern and recent graduate of Scripps College.

Self Help Graphics & Art