transformative art + design academy

Student projects


fall 2015

PEOPLE LIKE US | A short film exploring the stigmas + shame surrounding mental illness. (3:08) 


With a goal of creating a youth leadership council, we piloted an Open Studio class in February of 2015. Now in it’s third session, each lasting twelve weeks, our Open Studio class, aka “The League of Legendary Leaders,” have taken their work to a new level. Each month, students select a topic of interest affecting them and their peers, explore it to understand more deeply, create collaboratively and engage the community.

Their latest collaborative effort, “People Like Us,” won the Judge’s award for “Best Film” in the student category of the Saugatuck Shorts Film Festival. The top ten submissions from 2015's film competition, chosen by a panel of judges from the entertainment industry, were enjoyed by over 200 people at the festival on November 7th. The students received a $500 prize and announced to the audience that they agreed as a group to donate the award to CultureWorks, so that others would be able to have experiences like this.

The class instructor Erin Drews explains, “The students were all very passionate about the topic of mental illness, because they all have come into contact with it at some level and see it as real, tangible and raw.” Jack Burk, the volunteer videographer said, “it was encouraging to see the 14 and 15-year-olds uniting over a common cause, and caring about things that matter.” The short film, which creatively challenges stigmas surrounding mental illness can be viewed here.

Karyl Morin, Executive Director of CultureWorks, noted the emotion that is evoked by the film. “The powerful message of empathy in response to the stigma of mental illness shows the great depth our youth can offer when encouraged to apply their creative confidence on a topic of their choosing. Our high school open studio at CultureWorks is a place for students to be leaders for positive change through creating in community.”

Odalis Medellin, CultureWorks student and member of the League of Legendary Leaders said she was “proud about what the group had accomplished, and excited to be part of something that has the potential to help people.”