The window of the Youth Spirit Artworks gallery, with the words "paper windows" painted on it. Some people can be seen standing around on the street outside.
Vendors set up in the YSA art lot during the opening of Paper Windows. (Cole Burchiel)

On March 19, Youth Spirit Artworks (YSA) held the opening for Paper Windows: an art show in the Shanice Kiel Gallery, organized by YSA youth leader Amiah Peterson and her team of YSA participants and staff. It featured artwork from two YSA participants as well as a number East Bay artists. (Disclaimer: Youth Spirit Artworks is the publisher of Street Spirit.)

The show is part of a greater effort to resume having art shows at the Shanice Kiel Gallery, which hosted regular openings and open mics before the COVID pandemic. The opening reception for Paper Windows began in the early afternoon and went into the night. Over the course of the afternoon over 100 people stopped by to check it out. In addition to the art show set up in the gallery, there were about ten vendors set up in the outdoor lot behind the YSA studio on Alcatraz Avenue. The vendors were selling vintage clothing, drawings, ceramics, jewelry, and more. One vendor had a grill set up and was selling tacos. Live music from local Bay Area bands started around 6:30 pm. The event felt like a block party where everyone knew each other. Attendees and participants walked around to the various vendors’ booths and seemed excited to see what their friends were selling. 

A group of people selling colorful wares set up in a lot behind Youth Spirit artworks, surrounded by murals.
Vendors set up along the fence at the Youth Spirit Artworks art lot. The event hosted 19 vendors in all. (Cole Burchiel)

Amiah and her team started working on Paper Windows in September but decided to push the event back because a close friend of hers and the other artists passed away. When asked about the meaning of the show’s title, Amiah said, “Paper Windows is the idea that each piece is a window into the artist’s mind, a view into how they see the world and how they chose to illustrate it. The name is a based on what art is made on although not all of it was made on paper.” 

Amiah described the art in the show as primarily surrealist, in that “all the artists [made] art that’s based in their realities and how they view the world.” Most of the participating artists are part of the East Bay art scene, and know each other from attending the same shows and events. Amiah saw Paper Windows as “a first stage of what YSA means in the artist community.” She hopes that this show will act as a bridge between YSA and the greater community, and there will be an “opportunity [for the wider community] to realize what YSA is.” She said that this show diverges from past YSA shows as it brings in a broader community of artists from Berkeley and Oakland. 

A Black woman in a red coat looks at artwork on the walls in the gallery with her back facing the camera.
Community members look at the artwork hanging up in the Shanice Kiel gallery. (Cole Burchiel)

One of those community artists that participated as a vendor during the event is Ellarose, a self-described illustrator, drawer, and painter. Ellarose showcased her drawings in a portfolio-style binder. She said that she was participating in Paper Windows as a vendor not with the intention of selling her work, but instead, of having the opportunity to show her work to friends and community in person. “Being able to show work in person is very different from showing art on social media,” she said. Ellarose is a Berkeley native and is thinking about joining YSA for career direction in the realm of art and community. 

Oakland resident Lucie was selling her ceramics as a vendor at the event. Lucie said she primarily draws and paints, but has taken to clay in the last few years. Lucie said using clay feels like her drawings are coming into “forms or characters.” She expressed gratitude for being able to come together as a community after the isolation of the COVID pandemic. Lucie found out about Paper Windows through her connections to YSA. She participated in YSA during high school, volunteered to paint a mural with YSA participants, and has been invited to paint at the Tiny House Village. She expressed happiness to be back in collaboration with YSA as an adult artist. Lucie stated that, “YSA does a really good job of connecting young artists with each other. It’s a home for people.”

Paper Windows will be open until May 3. The Shanice Kiel Gallery is located at 3324 Adeline Street in South Berkeley, near the Ashby BART station. The gallery will be open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from noon to 4:00 p.m.

An artist holds up two drawings that they made, one with dominant green colors and the other with an orange-based color pallet.
A vendor holds up the artwork they had for sale at the YSA art lot. (Cole Burchiel)
A musician sings into a microphone and plays the keyboard. The sun sets behind them and they are wearing a yellow jacket.
Local bands played music behind the Shanice Kiel gallery as the evening came to a close (Cole Burchiel).

Emma Hegenbart is a Youth Spirit Artworks intern who is currently working on developing the Street Spirit events calendar.