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'Listen to Our Cries:' Gen Z artists confront issues like climate change and gun violence

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PlatteForum's ArtLab interns are showcasing their art in a new exhibit called Listen to Our Cries.

DENVER — Gun control. Identity. Climate change.

These are just a few of the topics that high school artists are grappling with in a new exhibit organized by PlatteForum, a nonprofit “urban art and activism laboratory” based in Denver.

PlatteForum’s interns, part of the nonprofit’s ArtLab program, are putting their work on display in the exhibit, which is titled Listen to Our Cries.

“This project, to me, is a representation of our values as youth in the 21st century,” said Patrick, one of the interns whose work will be included in the show.

Patrick is part of the exhibition’s climate change group. Other artists, like intern David, will be focusing on topics like identity.

“I think I feel comfortable here because I can really express myself and I don’t have to hide behind any identity that I would put on when I’m not in situations I’m comfortable with,” David explained. “I just feel really safe here.”

Colorado Voices

Listen to Our Cries

The interns are high school students. Kendall Kultgen, PlatteForum’s creative programming manager, said many of the student artists come from Title 1 schools or schools with a lack of arts funding.  “We try to prioritize those students so they can come here and have resources and have exposure to the art world,” she said.

The interns are paid and they also receive food, mental health support, RTD passes and tutoring.

According to the artists’ collective statement about Listen to Our Cries, they are working to “express the ways we’ve been impacted by observing the inevitable effects of climate change, the everlasting results of gun violence, and the persecution of our identities. We express our despair about these issues through individual and collaborative pieces of art. This generation is left grappling with issues of an impermanent future.”

[Related: How young people feel about climate change and their future]

The opening event takes place Friday, March 4 from 6 to 8 p.m. at The Savoy, an event space and gallery in Denver’s Curtis Park neighborhood. The exhibit closes March 18.

“I think one overlapping theme is how young people — how Generation Z — is inheriting a world that’s really difficult, where they’re grappling with all of these really big issues, maybe issues even above what they should be dealing with at their age,” Kultgen explained.

“For me [the exhibit] is important because our voices have largely been ignored by adults in our society,” Patrick added, “and I think that this art project is a good way to bring that to attention.”

More information on Listen to Our Cries is available here.

Kyle Cooke is the digital media manager at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach him at

Brian Willie is the content production manager at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach him at

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