“The teens – especially the boys – feel like people look at them and don’t really know who they are,” said Susan Colangelo of The Saint Louis Story Stitchers. “We started to explore that and thought it would be fun to do for Black History Month.”
On Sunday they will bring this notion to the runway for an experience called Project Perception: A Reality Runway Show at The Kranzberg Arts Center.
They worked with designer Qristyl Frazier and retailer The Avalon Exchange to either accentuate who they really are or created a false perception.
MC Mr. K.P. Dennis and Ms. Frazier will guide the audience through an exploration of the relationship between perception and clothing through music, game, and makeovers using repurposed clothing from Avalon Exchange to consider biases people may form about individuals based on attire as the young people rip the runway.
“The kids made it into a game show,” Colangelo said. “They are going to say a true statement about themselves and a false statement and then the audience is going to vote on what they think is true or false based on how they look.
You start to realize that you are making all of these assumptions and bringing all of this baggage to that person based on their appearance.”
The Saint Louis Story Stitchers Artists Collective is professional artists and inner-city youth grades 8-12, working together to create positive social change.
They use local stories and reframe and retell them through art, writing and performance to promote understanding, civic pride, intergenerational relationships and literacy. They are artists-in-residence at Kranzberg Arts Center in vibrant Grand Center.
“Any teenagers are going to say that same thing, ‘nobody understands me,’” Colangelo said. “ But I think we don’t really understand teenagers as adults. And they are in a whole different world than any other teenagers have ever been because they are the first generation that has had mobile technology in their cribs. They are different and they think about things differently so that’s about it. They want people to not judge them before they know them and give them a chance.”
Much like the show, The Story Stitchers’ projects create a platform for community engagement through an artistic lens and work to shift perceptions and realities and bring hope to the Saint Louis community.
“We see some interesting connections that we want to explore further to culturally answer some of these questions,” Colangelo said. “And to expose some of the stitcher teens to the art forms that are involved in fashion.”
But beyond exposing their young people to street art, fashion design they want to give the audience insight on the type of assumptions and stereotypes imposed on young people – black youth in particular.
“The whole month we wanted to give pause to how we react to people and to give people the benefit of the doubt and be aware that we all have implicit biases and they are really hard to fight,” Colangelo said. “And a lot of times we don’t even really know that we are bringing them to the table.”
Project Perception: A Reality Runway Show will take place at 12 noon on Sunday, Feb. 14 at The Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 N. Grand. A donation of $15 is suggested. For more information, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/project-perception-a-reality-runway-show-with-qristyl-frazier-tickets-21407470320