Dallas students Oscar Pena and Kylee Hong have been artists for as long as they can remember. Neither can’t recall a time that they didn’t have a pencil, pen or other instrument in hand, considerately interpreting their vision for others to see and making the world a more beautiful place with their creations.
Their collaborative design and artwork concepts now adorn the dorm rooms at Fannie C. Harris Youth Center. The two high school students – Oscar, a recent graduate from Thomas Jefferson, and Kylee, a current student from Hockaday – met less than a year ago during After8toEducate’s design thinking challenge, Illumin8. The multi-session workshop brought together students from both high schools to learn about design thinking and empathy in design, and then come up with interior design and planning concepts for several spaces in the center.
Oscar and Kylee were on the same team, the Blue Whales, and used their artistic talents to render their group’s ideas and create an engaging presentation for the pitch competition. While their team did not win, the project sparked their creative energy and the students were tapped by LRK Architects intern Nick Valeer to help create the room signage to designate each of the dorm-style “pods” in the residential wing.
In July 2019 the team began with the intent to repurpose the original green chalkboards that had been removed from the classrooms in the old elementary school that is being transformed into the center for homeless youth. With 26 rooms and 26 letters in the alphabet, they began to design concepts around each letter of the alphabet, portraying each artistically to designate a letter to each room.
Kylee and Oscar worked together on initial sketches, color schemes, and illustrations throughout the summer. They finalized their “blueprints,” small-scaled drafts of each piece, with Nick and then began to realize their ideas with the help of student volunteers and donations from Pace GFX, who provided the letters for the artwork.
“Being part of this project just shows how far life can take you, and I would like the kids from the youth center to know that,” said Oscar. “I want to show my appreciation and gratitude to Lydia and Kylee for their guidance and help with this project.”
Students at the center will see local and neighborhood references in the artwork – Big Tex on room B and a Ferris Wheel on room F, reminiscent of nearby Fair Park – as well as civic virtues like Voting, and even an Umbrella nod to After8toEducate, the umbrella organization that made capital construction renovations possible. The letters and their pictorial depictions were all hand-painted by a group of volunteer high school students on a chalkboard green background.
“It was extremely fulfilling to know that our art will play a part in supporting those who stay at Fannie C. Harris,” said Kylee. “The project brought together high school students to help fellow high school students as well as raise awareness of youth homelessness and the resources available at Fannie C. Harris.”
Click through the slideshow below to see the artwork, photos from the volunteer workdays, and final installation at the Fannie C. Harris Youth Center.