How a community thinktank is building an exhibition to highlight foster youth

There are 60,000 youth in California’s foster care system. Their experience is a difficult one — especially for those transitioning out of the system at age 18. They overcome profoundly complex life challenges, and have few opportunities to share this story. To challenge public misconceptions. To celebrate their resilience.

That’s why we are creating an exhibition about Santa Cruz County’s foster youth — with foster youth.

Since January, over 100 transition-age foster youth, foster youth advocates, and artists meet monthly at the MAH as part of C3, the Creative Community Committee. We share stories, brainstorm, and build ideas. Together, we’ll create Lost Childhoods, an exhibition opening in July. This is a partnership with the Foster Youth Museum, building off of their existing exhibition with a local focus. Together, we developed the 4 core ideas for this exhibition:

  1. Create visceral, emotional experiences to spark empathy
  2. Highlight foster youth resiliency
  3. Empower visitors to take action and share how to do so
  4. Share the authentic experience of foster care from a youth’s perspective (Foster Youth Museum)

At the MAH, we’ve always been committed to using art and history as tools to catalyze community action in Santa Cruz County. We’ve partnered with homeless adults, incarcerated artists, and day workers. Each year we work alongside 2,000 collaborators to create programing focused on building a stronger, more connected community together.

Lost Childhoods is our first venture into a new, issue-driven exhibitions structure. Our work will go deeper, grow further, and impact more people.

As of this week, we prototyped different parts of the exhibition and are ready to move on to create the final physical project. We’re so excited to continue to see relationships blossom, actions ignite, and creative collaboration catalyze change in our community. To follow along with the Lost Childhoods project, click here.

This project is fueled by MAH members, donors, and the James Irvine Foundation. Find out how to become a MAH member today.