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Back to the Future: Time Traveling Teens

CUC Teens’ “Relapse” and a Call for Time Capsule Submissions
Darius Steward, Master Teacher, CUC
April 29, 2021
Teenagers gather in a semicircle in the dark.

Photo: Maya Peroune, CUC teen.

Funded by the Cleveland Foundation, the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Currently Under Curation program (CUC) gives participating teens from the Cleveland area access to CMA resources, creating an environment where object based learning and teamwork skills are sharpened as they work to create arts experiences for a wide variety of audiences. The CUC teens recently collaborated on the exhibition Laura Owens: Rerun with internationally known artist Laura Owens and CMA curator Emily Liebert. The exhibition is on view at Transformer Station through May 30.

When COVID-19 struck, my colleagues Sabine Kretzschmar, Arcelia Gandarilla, and Sydney Kreuzmann, and I were tasked with creating a comfortable and inviting virtual space that empowers our CUC teens to communicate their thoughts, feelings, and ideas to one another. I feared that it would be difficult for us to maintain a meangful connection with them to survive the length of the pandemic, but they adapted quickly and excelled under the less-than-ideal circumstances. Not only have they exceeded expectations in their contribution to the Laura Owens: Rerun exhibition, but they have also embarked on a social media project called “Relapse”.

“Relapse” was created by Arica McKinney, Maya Peroune, Jamal Carter, Joseph Hlavac, Agatha Mathoslah, Deonta Steele, Skylar Fleming, and Xyhair Davis out of their inspiration by the concepts of time-travel explored in the Rerun exhibition and desire to depict the parallels in teen life throughout time. The teens said it best in their “Relapse” project statement, “The theme sets out to explore the idea that we have, in a sense, lived the same lives at some point.”

“We must understand the past to move forward.” — Arica McKinney, CUC teen.

The CUC teens agreed that the quarantine put a staple in their everyday routines. It forced them to metaphorically freeze time and reflect before moving on to the next thing.

With these thoughts lingering in their minds, they organized a series of photo shoots and created a narrative depicting five teen characters in different time periods with a goal of crafting their own world and capturing moments that highlight their fictional teens’ key interests and personalities. Each character’s theme is accessorized with references to the respective era’s fashion styles, inspiration from icons, and a Spotify music playlist with 18 songs.

Photo: Maya Peroune, CUC teen.

These project photos can be found on the CMA teens’ Instagram account and have also been shared by the main CMA and Transformer Station and Instagram accounts.

Let’s Meet the Relapse Time Travel Characters

Photos: Maya Peroune, CUC teen. Character theme: 1970s.

Sean is a man of the 1970s. He is a photographer and an activist. He does freelance work for the tabloids, but his real passion is photojournalism and capturing the voices of the community. All the power to the people.

Photos by CUC teens: Jamal Carter (left) and Maya Peroune (center and right). Character theme: goth.

Mildred embraces her individuality. She may seem like a hardcore Goth girl but she is quite the opposite of what you may think. Mildred is an avid animal lover and spends her free time helping the community and volunteering at the soup kitchen to feed the homeless.

Photos by CUC teens: Jamal Carter (left) and Maya Peroune (center and right) . Character theme: modern.

Erykah, a modern girl, is a visual artist and musician who has a thirst for knowledge. Her friends consider her the “jack-of-all-trades”. During this pandemic she has found that her various outlets have kept her mind at peace.

Photos: Maya Peroune, CUC teen. Character theme: futuristic.

8ctav!^ (Octavia) represents the future and is from the planet Zandora and the year is 3005. She invented a ray gun that transports friends from Earth to her home planet. 8ctav!^ has lots of plans to shake things up.

Each character in this group represents a moment in time and they have come together by means of time travel to contribute to a time capsule. However, the time capsule is missing a few items from present day teens. As part of the project, the teens have created a time capsule as a way to connect all of their themed characters and they would like to extend the invitation to any Cleveland teen, and beyond, who would like to submit artwork to the time capsule project.

Time capsule on view in Laura Owens: Rerun (center).

This creative project makes it clear that these teens wanted to construct a utopian time continuum that highlights key moments as a reminder of the good that once was, currently exists and could continue in the future. With the optimism and resilience these teens have shown I’m sure that our future is in good hands.


Visit the Rerun exhibition at Transformer Station through May 30 by reserving your tickets at https://www.clevelandart.org/transformer-station.

Check out the “Relapse” project the CUC Teens have created on their Instagram: @CMA_teens and then submit your artwork to the time capsule by May 30.