The Colorization Collective: Supporting Teen Artists of Color in Telling Their Own Stories

Featured Illustration: Tarn Ellis

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The world of art is a place of self-expression and freedom for many, and for a lot of teenagers, it can be the only place in which they are allowed to truly be themselves. However, for a plethora of teens of color, it can often be difficult to find a place to fit in and to showcase their talents. Limited opportunities and unwelcome environments cause teen artists of color to be continuously pushed to the outskirts of society — this means that their talents are often disregarded due to the lack of support they receive.

Anya and Kathryn, co-founders of The Colorization Collective, came to the realization that there was evidently a lack of representation in the art world for teens of color, and as artists themselves, they decided that there had to be a support system to improve this situation. I recently had the opportunity to interview them both to discuss the work they’re involved in and how they’re trying to improve the lack of representation of teen artists of color in the art world. The following includes the highlights of our conversation.

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What is The Colorization Collective? What was the motive behind creating this platform?

The Colorization Collective is an international organization that supports teen artists of color. We do so through two main initiatives: our mentorship program, which connects teen and adult artists of color, as well as online content, such as social media campaigns, blog articles, and our web-series (which you can find on YouTube).

We were first inspired to create The Collective after participating in an acting intensive in 2018, where we spoke with several inspirational adults of color who were pushing for diversity in the arts. After the intensive, we started our web-series in the summer of 2019, and the organization followed from there.

The Colorization Collective is incredibly empowering for teenagers and the opportunities available help people of color to work towards their dreams in a place that won’t discriminate against them. Why did you decide to make your platform opportunities only available to people of color? Was this a difficult decision?

Great question! We’re both teens of color, and we have both experienced the isolation that comes from being one of the only people of color in a majority-white arts space. To combat this, we wanted to create a space where teens of color could find a community of people who looked like them and shared their experiences.

Of course, while our target audience is teens of color (and the majority of our programs are specifically for teens of color), anyone is welcome to view and learn from our online content.

What do you think the future looks like for artists of color? Do you think we’ll begin to see a rise in BIPOC representation in the arts?

Compared to even two or three years ago, we think the arts industry is definitely shifting to be more inclusive. Institutions are beginning to acknowledge the need for racial equity in the arts. That being said, there is still more work to be done, especially in higher-level positions. For example, according to a UCLA study, only 1 out of 5 film directors were people of color in 2020. We hope our country’s push for diversity will eventually affect those in all facets of the arts, including arts administration and roles behind the camera. 

What kind of opportunities do you offer? If people wish to, how are they able to join The Colorization Collective?

 We offer several opportunities specific to The Colorization Collective:

  • Our features. We feature teens of color on our social media + blog, as well as our web-series. These features allow teens of color to publicize their art and share their stories.
  • Our chapter program. Teens of color can start a chapter of The Colorization Collective in their local community. This is a way for teens to (with our support) host area-specific events to promote diversity in the arts, such as discussions, galleries, performances, and more!
  • Our team. We have a small team of blog writers, outreach managers, and film directors who help us with our day-to-day work and overarching projects.

We also host one-off collaborations with various organizations! For example, we ran an article series with a local Indigenous and Native news site, Last Real Indians, and just wrapped up submissions for our micro-issue with Siblini Journal.

More information on all of these opportunities is available on our website, Instagram, and Facebook.

Where do you see The Colorization Collective in the future? How do you plan on expanding your platform and in what ways?

It’s a big dream, but we envision The Colorization Collective spreading across the country and the world. Diversity in the arts affects people all across the globe, so we hope our organization can support teens from various locations. Specifically, we could see our chapter program having a strong local impact: teens could film web-series from their cities, write blog articles specific to their area, or host school-wide discussions or events. That small-scale, grassroots change will eventually have a big impact.

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The Colorization Collective is an incredible organization, driven by a hardworking team of individuals, and the success they have made in just a few years is remarkable. I can’t wait to see how the organization continues to grow and I wish Anya, Kathryn, and the rest of the team the best of luck!