BRIDGEPORT — For the past three years, art teacher Jeanette Thompson has asked the city's teenagers to answer a simple question through their art: Who are you?
"It's a really exciting opportunity to see into the minds of teens in Chicago. I don't think they get as many opportunities to really delve that deeply into themselves or think deeply about who they are, nevermind share that," said Thompson artist and art teacher at CICS Northtown Academy.
The call for submissions yielded nearly 170 works of art by eighth-graders and high schoolers from 16 Chicago schools More than 50 finalists chosen to display their work in the third annual "I Am" art exhibit, which kicks off Monday at the HumanThread gallery.
An opening reception is scheduled for 6-10 p.m. March 21, when jurors will select the top three works of art. The exhibit will be on display through April 7. HumanThread is on the fifth floor of the Bridgeport Art Center, 1200 W. 35th St.
"It's a really nice, diverse assortment of art," said Thompson, who last year earned a nod as the Illinois Art Educators Associations' 'Secondary Art Educator of the Year" award.
One of last year's winners, Sarah Kazi, of West Rogers Park, earned one of the contest's top awards with her submission titled "Struggle of a Young Marionette," depicting a female puppet dangling in front of a stage under someone else's control. She said the piece helped externalize the push-and-pull struggles of a life as a teen girl of Muslim faith.
That type of soul-baring submission dovetails with the social justice mission of the HumanThread, which hosts the exhibit. The nonprofit aims to connect the city's teens through nonviolence-inspired art, including movie screenings, worskhops, roundtables and weekly OpenMind OpenMic sessions.
"We share that vision for peace and nonviolence," Thompson said.