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Get ready for the Lynn Raw Art Works block party

Lynn, Ma. 5-18-17. Guests at the RAW art Works block party in Central Square in Lynn were asked to stand in an outline of a house that was drawn on the street, hold up the sign Home and be photographed by a drone.
Guests at the 2017 RAW art Works block party in Central Square in Lynn. (Owen O'Rourke)

LYNN — Raw Art Works is throwing a party tomorrow evening at its Central Square headquarters and everyone’s invited.

Its annual Block Party will serve as opening night for its annual exhibit, “eleMEnts,” which features some 150 pieces of art created by the young adults, ages 7 to 19, who participate in various RAW programs. The Block Party is free and is family-friendly. Enzo’s will be selling pizza for a buck a slice and RAW will make available light refreshments.

The street in front of RAW’s Central Square space will be closed to traffic from 5:15 till 8-ish. After attendees take in the exhibit from 6 to 7 p.m., Executive Director Kit Jenkins and Jason Cruz, who started as an intern in 1997 and is now RAW’s clinical supervisor, will lead a tribute to RAW founder Mary Flannery, who is stepping down from her leadership position at the end of this season. Senior scholarships will also be awarded, as will RAW hoodies, “a prized possession for seniors,” according to Program Director Kathe Swaback.

Swaback said the “eleMEnts” exhibit looks at the elements of our world, elements of change and much more.

“It’s not only earth, wind and fire,” said Swaback. “We went deep with this process. It’s sometimes painful to look hard at yourself, but our artists did it fully, developing an understanding of the critical elements of what it means to be a young artist today. They were invited to think of elements as parts of a whole, but also as catalysts for change and growth.”

Not only is the art itself remarkable, the young artists also bared their souls in short written passages, displayed next to each piece, which vary in form from paintings, prints, mixed media and sculpture.

The youth were asked bold questions, such as “What elements drive you toward your passion and goals?” and “What elements inspire or hinder your imagination?”

The answers are insightful and hopeful.

To the question “What elements are needed to help propel you in the direction where you would like to go,” elementary school student Chloe responded: “Letting go of my fears would help me to propel forward. An element that is especially important to helping girls move forward is not second-guessing themselves, thinking that ‘boys are better.'”

To the question “What is the value of the element of vulnerability,” a high schooler in the Women 2 Be program responded: “Being real and vulnerable with others is important, but being vulnerable with yourself needs to happen first. Looking beneath the exterior version of yourself that you show others is where you’ll discover the person you really are. Once you are able to see and accept your true self, you’ll be able to share your real self with others without caring if they like it or not. Vulnerability can be scary, but without it we would never be able to accept and appreciate people for who they really are.”

To the question “What element brings you to life,” an elementary school boy responded: “My elements are metal and fire. It reminds me of having a campfire in Maine and tossing pine cones in the fire. One thing that is tough is the group of girls at school who pick on and make fun of me. If I could be more like fire and metal, I would be more assertive and i would stand up for myself, and let them know how it makes me feel. I know that I am intelligent and I deserve not to be treated like this.”

Swaback, who has been a RAW leader since 1994, said that young artists, by exploring who they are, gain insight in how they can impact their own lives, their community and the world.

“About eighty percent of our kids are here three years or more. We started with 16 kids when it was just Mary and Kit three decades ago; this year we have about 500. After they leave the program, they ask ‘How do I stay connected?’ Our alumni group and council are active and have grown; it plans events, meets regularly, stays in touch via Facebook, where support continues and announcements like ‘I have a show at Montserrat next week; please check it out’ are posted.”

It’s clear that RAW has impacted these young adults’ lives, and they, in turn, have impacted the lives of staff members, through exhibits like “eleMEnts.”

“eleMEnts,” at Raw Art Works, 37 Central Square, Thursday, May 17, 6-8 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call 781-593-5515 or visit rawartworks.com.

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