Their volunteerism was born out of a love for art, and a desire to empower young creatives who may not have the resources to exhibit their artwork and get recognized. When they met in art class, high school students Taylor Wang and Alice Mao decided they could make art more accessible to all youth artists, and committed to increasing awareness about youth art equity.
Launching Student Art Spaces in 2019, the Issaquah, Washington teenagers are providing accessible art space and breaking down financial, racial and gender barriers for young creatives. By facilitating youth gallery events and providing art education, Taylor and Alice have exhibited 80 youth artists and connected with hundreds of young creatives in their community.
What inspires you to volunteer?
Taylor: Service is a great way to connect with your community using the privilege you have and helping other people who don’t have as many resources as you do.
Alice: I was inspired to fill a gap that wasn’t being filled in the community. As a volunteer at my local art museum, I would see a lot of local artists come through that would be interested in art, and realized they had no space to show. Through Student Art Spaces, we are making that happen.
Describe your role with Student Art Spaces.
Taylor: As co-founder, I manage our communications and reach out to local and national organizations to connect and collaborate, in addition to networking at conferences. We share social media responsibilities to spread our message.
Alice: As co-founder, I manage our Kickstarter page which is partly how we fundraise, in addition to writing grants. I manage our communications and connect with our approximately 30 volunteers.
Share one personal story with me from your volunteerism.
Alice: During our first exhibition, we noticed there were a lot of elderly people in attendance, and it was really important to get reactions like theirs from the community. We’re elevating topics that socially engaged youth care about.
Taylor: One of the artists from our last gallery, Claudia Garcia of El Paso, Texas, showed me the power of art with her story. She couldn’t fly to Washington for the show because of the 2019 El Paso mass shooting, but told us that she was proud to show her work outside of her city, and that’s when I realized how important our work was.
What’s one way you hope to inspire others in your service?
Taylor: We’re currently working with a group in Texas that is starting their own chapter of Student Art Spaces. We’re providing them mentorship and advice to connect with artists in their own community. We’re excited to expand because it used to just be the two of us but now it’s so much more.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your service?
Alice: We have people telling us that what we’re doing is life-changing. That’s definitely the best part of our service. People our age are headed off to college and deciding what to do with our lives, and we’re showing people that art can be a career and that it’s an essential part of the community.
What’s your favorite piece of art or artist?
Taylor: I am also a volunteer at the Seattle Art Museum. Recently, they held an exhibit for Artemisia Gentileschi, who was a painter from the 1500s. Being a female artist at that time wasn’t the easiest, and she experienced sexual assault that impacted her artwork. I’ve had a lot of similar experiences, so her story resonates with me.
Alice: Mark Tennant is my favorite artist, he’s a painter based in New York City. I really like how he paints (laughs).
What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?
Taylor: We are connecting generations. Art can connect and unite communities regardless of race, economic status or gender. These young artists’ stories and unique perspectives about topics that Gen Z deals with every day: climate change, mental health, and school shootings can connect people in a way that news articles or statistics could never do.
In one word, what does volunteerism mean to you?
Alice: Improvement. You’re improving the environment you’re living in.
Taylor: Transformative. We are showcasing the transformative power of art in creating a community regardless of race, gender, or economic status.
How can readers help?
Please visit our website for more information about upcoming events.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Taylor Wang & Alice Mao? Find local volunteer opportunities.