In a glittering, gold-tiled room off of the sanctuary at Saint John’s Cathedral, a series of striking black-and-white portraits stands waiting to bring viewers into the world of Los Angeles’ foster youth.
The Foster Youth Museum (FYM) has come to L.A. for the first time with the inaugural run of its newest exhibit, “See Me: Portraits of Foster Youth.” The exhibit features 22 portraits of current and former foster youth — some shot by foster youth themselves — along with short narratives about their experience in care. It was designed to give youth the chance to tell their stories about life in the system, and specifically how their experiences affect their pursuit of higher education.
Only former foster youth who have gone to college, or are planning to, were able to participate in this particular exhibit of the Foster Youth Museum. Jamie Lee Evans, FYM’s founder and executive director, wanted the exhibit to highlight not just the particular challenges foster youth face in their education, but their triumphs, too.
“Too many enter the college marketplace with multiple school changes and lots of disruption during school years,” Evans wrote in a blog post.
FYM was a creation of a group of current and former foster youth organized by a group called the Y.O.U.T.H. Training Project. They united under the effort to give themselves the chance to shape their own narrative, by creating an exhibit compiled of photos and artifacts that illustrate the life journey of foster youth. Over the past 13 years, the Foster Youth Museum has grown to become the largest collection of tokens memorializing the experiences of foster youth.
A few events around the exhibit are scheduled over the next month. On February 22, Fostering Media Connections will host a reception to invite the community to experience the exhibit and mingle with some of the participants.
On February 25, there will be an education-themed panel discussion where former foster youth, including the California state foster care ombudsperson, will have the chance to elaborate on the challenges and successes they had in their pursuit of education. On February 26, another panel of youth will discuss the role of spirituality in their journey.
The “See Me” exhibit will be shown through March 4 at Saint John’s Episcopal Cathedral, 514 W. Adams Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90007. The exhibit is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, and you can sign up for a guided tour here.
*This article originally stated in error that the Foster Youth Museum was a creation of California Youth Connection. It was originally started by a group called the Y.O.U.T.H. Training Project. The story has updated to correct the error.