A large factor in why I wanted to join the Elan staff is because it is not just a small group of teens publishing work by and for its own host school. It eclipses the landscape of Douglas Anderson and carries its own merit as a part of a global art community. Not only that, but it is deeply involved in the local art community, with a focus on the youth.
Civil service devotees who invested in the youth of Jacksonville taught me at a young age to love this city. Moreover, they taught me that Jacksonville’s growth depended on the nurturing of the community that inhabited it. I wanted to put the message I learned about getting what you give to your community in action through my work in this organization. In November I had the opportunity to participate in a workshop at Lavilla School of the Arts. As a daughter of two teachers, I was deeply drawn to the idea of working with young people. My love for reading seriously shifted to a love for writing in middle school, and I hoped to help stir this same reaction in someone at Lavilla.
This event entailed nearly a whole school day for the members of Elan. We worked with sixth, seventh, and eighth graders who were already involved in their middle school’s creative writing program. A major focus of these workshops was to lift up these young creators and show them that their art is incredibly important. We wanted to encourage them to keep creating, as the goal of writing is not to please an audience, but to share a piece of ones unique voice and experience. The existence of Elan proves this truth. People want to know what the youth has to say, and they have for thirty years and counting. As we analyzed example writing and heard these students share some of their own, I was shocked by the depth of their insight. I reached a point where I felt I was no longer teaching, but having a genuine discussion with fellow members of the next generation of artists.
I also got a chance to share about my personal journey with creative writing, Elan, and how both have affected who I am not just as an artist, but as a person. I already knew that my personal growth walked hand in hand with my identity as a writer, but having to put it into words made me realize how rare and important the environment of Elan has proven to be.
- Ashley Chatmon, Junior Marketing Editor