April 26, 2023

Meet Teaching Artist, Ettie!

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Your support during our GiveBIG campaign helps us amplify our vision to transform our collective future, one picture at a time! The youth in our programs are sharing their stories and dreams with the world through their photographs. And our Teaching Artists guide them along the way, helping them develop confidence and Dream BIG!

Meet Ettie Wahl (she/they)

Ettie joined the teaching staff at Youth in Focus in January and has already made a  huge impact! They bring a thoughtful and mindful approach to our Digital Photography classes and help expand our reach through community partnership programming offsite.

What role did art play in your teen years?
Art was always a foundational part of my life, and in my teen years, it really started to become the focus that was keeping everything else on track. I really struggled academically and even failed quite a few art classes, which is quite ironic in retrospect. I attribute this to educators that were ill-equipped to deal with students that were going through complex trauma and interpersonal dynamics at home. I found many of my educators didn't know how to support those of us who needed extra care. So, I developed a very independent relationship with art, and ultimately it ended up being in the saving grace that changed my life for the better.

How has your art practice developed over the years?
My art practice developed significantly after I left high school. As a young adult I immediately turned to art as a means of self-discovery and understanding of myself in the world around me. I started an arts organization called, "Off the Wall Artist Collective" when I was just 19, and managed that organization for six years. I was living in a rural area on the peninsula of Kitsap County and was really struggling to find avenues and outlets to develop and represent my work and the work of the others around me. I found the best way to keep going was to innovate and design programs and opportunities where I saw need for myself and others.

I attended six separate community colleges to get my Bachelors degree, which took a  span of 11 years because I worked in addition to going to school. When I was 20, I developed my first short film and something sparked in me that was so incredible to witness – I had never felt so capable and so aligned with a practical implementation of creativity until that moment. I began directing when I was 22 which led to the development of my first feature length film at age 23. Flash forward six years later and I have released that feature film in multiple countries, directed and/or produced over 50 productions, and filmmaking is as natural to me as breathing.

What YiF value resonates with your own artistic practice?
Using photography as a means for personal acceptance and understanding. Knowing that our space is a safe place for young people to come and explore the inner workings of their own lives and minds, is so moving to me. I'm immensely honored that I get to show up and be a safe person for the youth that attend Youth in Focus. I have seen such incredible growth and change in even just one program and how it affects the students involved. From self-esteem to creative practice, our students are ever-changing and evolving, and it's nothing short of miraculous to witness.

Check out Ettie's work!