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Teen Arts Council promotes creativity, provides safe space

When senior David Tomz played guitar for an audience during an Open Mic event hosted by the Palo Alto Teen Arts Council last year, he did not realize that it would be the first of many times he performed for fellow students in public.

Tomz, who is co-president of the Teen Arts Council, said the community has helped him gain confidence.

“I always liked making music on my own but was never super willing to perform in front of other people,” Tomz said. “I signed up for the first open mic of the school year last year and was nervous before, but after performing, people supported me.”

Senior and Co-President of the Teen Arts Council Rori Escuerdo said the student group was founded in 2011 to raise awareness about mental health issues among teenagers.

“Stopping suicide among teens was the (initial) goal,” Escuerdo said. “Mental health is important, and by creating this space for teens in Palo Alto (and) Menlo Park, we try to create an inclusive space where people are not going to be judged.”

Tomz said the council works to host a variety of art events for teens, providing a safe space for them to express themselves without being judged. The Teen Arts Council hosted Wavefest, a summer music and art festival.

“We like to feature student vendors who can bring jewelry and paintings to sell,” Escuerdo said.

“We also call usually for local (teen) bands to perform, and we have food ‒ it’s really fun.” Tomz said another way the council serves the community is by partnering with local groups.

“We collaborated with professional artists at a textile workshop,” Tomz said. “We also collaborated
with boy scouts to hold an indigo dyeing workshop.”

Escuerdo said the council also provides a supportive environment for teens and by teens.

“Even if you don’t have experience in the arts, like taking (art) classes or growing up with artistic people, (the council) fosters a good environment of learning, inclusion and creativity,” Escuerdo said. “For me, it has been a safe space to have a lot of creative liberty and freedom and to not feel judged.”

Senior and executive member Mireira Saiz Blasi said joining the council has given her leadership experience and fun opportunities.

“There are events like karaoke nights, which are chill versions of the open mics which are more formal with individual performers,” Saiz Blasi said.

“You can go with your friends to clothing swaps which get people to recycle clothes instead of throwing them away. (The council is) just really fun with friends, especially when you’re really stressed about other things.”

Tomz said there’s a place in the Teen Arts Council for everyone.

“Come to one of our meetings ‒ they’re open to anyone who wants to come,” Tomz said. “It’s just a fun place where you can hang out with artistic people and make friends.”

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