Open Letter to the Fleisher Community from Teen Lounge

This is an open letter by Teen Lounge, our drop-in after school program for youth ages 13-19 that encourages leadership, community building, and self expression through art. These opinions are those of the students in Teen Lounge and may not reflect the opinions and beliefs of Fleisher Art Memorial, the institution. Fleisher does, however, unequivocally denounce antiblackness and the destruction of artwork.

What do we mean when we say “Welcome”? 

We mean a place where young people are welcome to experiment, build community, and make art about what matters to us.  

We would like to share with the community that an artwork displayed in Fleisher’s Teen Lounge was recently destroyed by an unknown person. This poster was created in response to the murder of George Floyd in 2020, and designed for the protests that followed.

The defacing of our Defund The Police poster was an act of hate, and it is an understatement to say it’s scary now knowing someone with these views who is willing to commit such an action is within the Fleisher community. We would never have expected this to happen, thinking that Fleisher is a safe community, and are alarmed to see such disregard for the experiences of people of color. 

Teen Lounge is more than just an after school program – it is a hub for the creative youth of Philadelphia. Our community offers new ideas, unique experiences and personalities that all keep Fleisher grounded in its goal of inclusion, creative freedom and safety with oneself.  In this city unfortunately we must recognize that disparity yet uniqueness of Teen Lounge.  

But beyond our tools for the arts, we are human – and life is more than just what we create, it’s what we live through every day. Much of life has very divisive topics, that can be processed, understood and challenged through artmaking. Throughout history, creators have used art as a megaphone to accomplish whatever message they sought to capture and spread.  

There’s nothing wrong with tying art and politics together, but as of the past few years the radical nature of how people react to politics has impacted the art world as well. Some at Fleisher might not understand why we stand in solidarity with the Defund The Police movement. To us, it is also about standing with those most affected by police brutality. As outlined in this article, the Defund movement suggests that disproportionate funding for the police be reallocated to services that directly help people, such as mental health services, housing, education, and the arts. For example, at the time of this poster’s creation in June 2020, Mayor Kenny’s proposed budget included $727 MILLION for police and ZERO for the Philadelphia Cultural Fund (the non-profit that funds local arts organizations), as well as zeroing out the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy (OACCE) which manages The City’s public art program, provides grants for artists and manages other art-related responsibilities. This is a disparity that should alarm everyone at Fleisher, where we believe art should be made accessible to all. 

Teen Lounge is not new to activism through art, and we are very proud to fight for what we believe is wrong. But with that being said, having fun, relaxing, and feeling carefree is also what art is about to us, and places like Teen Lounge with its inclusion, creative freedom, safety are very few. So it’s hard to believe that someone would deface our artwork, especially in such a kind and accepting community like Fleisher’s. In the words of one teen, “it genuinely makes me sick to see that ideologies like these have infiltrated even our little safe haven.” 

We invite the larger Fleisher community to join us in condemning this destructive act of anti-blackness and suppression of youth voices. To those who understand our activism and self-expression as part of what makes Fleisher special, please continue to uplift and respect our voices. 

Read more about #DefundThePolice here.

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