May 1, 2023

Meet Teaching Artist, Dene!

Now is the time to GiveBIG!

All donations will be matched up to $7,500. Help us reach our goal of $20,000 to support teens as they explore their creativity. Your GiveBIG gift helps us create the future we want to see – one where youth are included, accepted, and nurtured to express their ideas and share their gifts.We are teaching photography, but our youth are learning so much more. They're learning who they are, how to be, and how to share their ideas and values with the world. And our Teaching Artists guide them along the way, helping them develop confidence and Dream BIG!

Meet Dene Diaz (he/him)
Dene joined the teaching staff at Youth in Focus in 2022 supporting our Creative Career Cohort program for BIPOC youth and several of our community partner programs. Dene oozes cool, approaches life and photography with joy, and thoughtfully engages our youth to help them discover and realize their dreams.

What role did art play in your teen years?
In my teenage years art was and still is a like a compass that has always led me back home. As far back as I can remember art, music, and drawing has always been around me. My family would throw these parties in tiny apartments with live music, merengue and bachata, and everyone danced until drenched in sweat. I can still hear those songs and feel the heat in those small living rooms. I grew up drawing with my little cousin, and I'd go to museums with him and marvel at the works of art of so many great artists. These paintings are what led me pick up a camera.

How has your art practice developed over the years?
It's been a beautiful journey. A dance with moments where the tempo sped up and others where I've taken a seat to rest. I remember looking at stacks of old family photo albums and realizing that my father wasn't in any of the photos because he took them all. So, I guess I first got the love for photography from him. As a teen, I'd take tons of photos on a cell phone until a girlfriend of mine surprised me with a DSLR. For years I didn't put that thing down. Eventually I picked up a film camera and learned how to use it while walking the streets of NY and taking candid photos. I visited the Dominican Republic, the country where my parents were born, and fell in love with it through my 35mm film camera. I have begun offering my skills to people who want to have photographs of moments that are special to them. My heart is truly still into capturing genuine moments that feel eternal.

What YiF value resonates with your own artistic practice?
Providing access and fostering creativity
I grew up in a setting where there weren't many, if any at all, outlets for creativity and expression accessible to youth. Art is truly a way to understand the world, to listen to it, and speak our truth in return. It has the ability to save lives and to connect us to one another. To help us understand each other. Expression is so vital and to be able to do it in a safe space even more so. Especially for youth who are breaking out of their cocoons and learning what it means to fly to the beat of their own hearts. It's beautiful to empower young humans and lift their voices so that, if they choose to, they can share their story with the world.

Check out Dene's work!