Cescah Grazioli '20

For Cescah Grazioli '20, growing up in Charlottesville meant growing up with Art in Place, a series of roadside sculptures strategically located to be viewed by commuters and visitors. When she found out that the program was ending with the closure of the Piedmont Council of the Arts, she knew she wasn't ready to take it over on her own but was interested in learning more about project management and the importance of art in the community.

"I talked to Mr. Taylor, who is part of the board of The Bridge, and I had this idea that I wanted to have a teen art competition. The events of August 11 and 12, 2017 is something that teenagers haven't really been able to talk about at all," explained Grazioli.

"I've been reading some of the articles and seeing it on social media and news reports, and it's always just adults. I was hearing about the city council meetings and it was adults talking. And that's great, it needs to be talked about, but teenagers grew up here so I feel like we should have a say. It's impacted us a lot, and I feel like it's something we should be able to express."

The "Through Our Eyes" competition Grazioli created with The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative is a mixed media art competition and exhibition for teenagers in Grades 9 – 12 in city and county schools, or who are in those grades as students being homeschooled.

According to the competition's call for submissions:

After August 11 and 12, 2017, Charlottesville launched a national conversation about racial violence, equality, and the long-lasting effect of the Lost Cause Monuments. A wide array of people have discussed the meaning of that day, everyone striving to be heard amidst the onslaught of opinions and emotions. among these opinions, teenage voices are continually overlooked. Dismissed as uninformed or isolated from the event, very few teenage voices have risen above the adults'. We want the opportunity to hear the voices of those who grew up in Charlottesville and have witnessed its shortcomings and its growth.

Grazioli, an avid photographer, decided to open the competition to any medium that would give voice to her fellow teens.

"The competition originally was just going to be photography, because that's what I'm into, but I wanted everyone to be able to do it and I know a lot of people don't find photography that interesting so I opened it up more," said Grazioli. "I have some friends who are brilliant at writing, so we put that in too and obviously writing is a really good way to express yourself."

Idea submissions for the Through Our Eyes competition are due on January 31, a day Grazioli once believed would never come.

"St. Anne's-Belfield is really good at encouraging you to go get what you want, to organize your ideas, and that makes it seem like things are really possible," she said. "When I started this, it was just an idea that I didn't think was actually going to happen and now it's actually going to, which is crazy!"

The exhibit will open on March 1 at The Bridge, and will remain on display for the month of March. It will kick off with an opening reception, and will remain free and open to the public.

Full details of the Through Our Eyes competition are available on The Bridge's website. To learn more about the contest, view NBC 29's Charlottesville Art Contest to Focus on Impact, Effects of August 12.