Press Release

Art Start Portrait Project "See Me Because" NYC Exhibition

New York, NY (June 3rd – 26th, 2021)
#SeeMeBecause #ArtStartPortraitProject
New York, NY – With 30 years of award-winning creative youth programs under its belt, Art Start is pleased to present the 8th iteration of its annual SEE ME BECAUSE multimedia exhibition at the Starrett-Lehigh Building’s W. 27th Street exhibition space in New York’s West Chelsea Arts District. The exhibition opens on Thursday, June 3rd and runs through Saturday, June 26th, 2021. The SEE ME BECAUSE exhibition is the culmination of the Art Start Portrait Project, a year-long project and platform for youth of color to establish their own narratives, explore the complexity of their identities, envision their futures, and express how they want to be seen by the world. The project is supported by world-class artists who collaborate with youth to bring their voices and visions to the public.
“The Art Start Portrait Project challenges the pattern that stereotypes, statistics, and circumstance should determine our youths’ existence, or that the identity that society has assigned them will be their one-dimensional reality,” explains Johanna de los Santos, Art Start’s Executive Director. “We believe that each individual has an autonomous and creative spirit which is inherently healing and liberating. With the freedom to explore, design and imagine oneself, the courage to believe, and access to the resources to create, we can profoundly transform how we identify and how we interact with our lives, futures, and each other.”
This is the eighth volume of the Art Start Portrait Project, founded in 2013 by Art Start. The Volume Eight participants join a living archive of hundreds of youth and families over many years who, as complex, self-determined people in pursuit of self-discovery, have asked the world to see them as they choose to be seen. The archive of previous Volumes portraits can be viewed at
Credit: Portrait of Petrilla made with Ken Pao, 2020.
Collaborating artists for the SEE ME BECAUSE exhibition include Heidi GutmanMary Ellen MatthewsNatalie Brasington, David Johnson, Kissenia Chara, Hosea JohnsonRoy MorrisonKen PaoBriscoe SavoyZachary Maxwell StertzEmma StrachmanAdriana AndaluzEric Kleppe-MontenegroCasey SteinAnthony Giacomino, and Shinya Nakamura.
SEE ME BECAUSE: The Art Start Portrait Project Volume 8, is sponsored by the National Endowment for the ArtsNew York State Council on the ArtsNew York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with City Council, and Humanities NY, with the support of National Endowment for the Humanities. Production location support was provided by The Kitchen. Exhibition support is provided by RXR RealtyDuggalOxygen Eventworks and BFA.
Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, Art Start is a nationally-recognized organization that uses the creative process and collaborations with the creative arts and media industries to nurture the voices of historically marginalized youth, offering them a space to imagine, believe, and represent their creative vision for their lives and communities. For more information on Art Start, how to get involved or make a donation, please visit the website:
To schedule a viewing appointment in advance, please visit:
Since 1991, Art Start has used the creative process to nurture the voices, hearts and minds of historically marginalized youth, offering a space for them to imagine, believe, and represent their creative vision for their lives and communities. Through consistent workshops with long-term partners, including youth organizations, schools, alternative sentencing programs, and residences for youth and families experiencing homelessness, art becomes the starting point of a larger life process, and the start of larger public exchanges about the future of our communities.
Art Start’s success has received national media attention, including on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Bravo’s “Stories of Arts for Change”, Fox 5ʹs Good Day Street Talk, MSNBC’s The Griot, 107.3 Lite FM, National Public Radio, a mini-documentary by two-time Academy Award-winning director Barbara Kopple and the 2003 CBS special, “Fulfilling the Dream.” In 2009, The Sundance Channel debuted “The Hip Hop Project”, a feature-length documentary about Art Start’s award-winning music program. Additional features about Art Start have been published in The Guardian, The New York Times, and New York Daily News.
The Art Start Portrait Project is a multimedia exhibition and platform for Art Start youth to portray the complex narratives about their identities, asking the world to see them as they choose to be seen. Through Art Start workshops, in-depth dialogue, interviews and photoshoots, participants explore personal identity and envision their lives beyond circumstance and stereotype. With support from world-class photographers, retouchers, stylists, and oral historians, those visions come to life through multimedia exhibitions and the public campaign, #SeeMeBecause, offering a platform for self-determination, representation, and freedom.
Credit: Portrait of Kayla made with Heidi Gutman, 2020.