Framed portraits lined the walls of the Lawrence Arts Center. Alongside the art was a collection of shirts, photos and prose. Every piece, although widely ranging in form, aimed to answer one question: What is Hang12?
In the form most true to the student curatorial board, none of the work in the April 2021 exhibit told you what Hang12 is — it showed you.
Hang12 is a student-led curatorial board run out of the Lawrence Arts Center. The group plans and runs art shows and art-centered community events with the goal of elevating young artists from the Lawrence area.
Much of what went into the show can be seen all over the studio. But the hours of planning from a group of high schoolers evaluating art and creating a cohesive artistic vision all happen behind the scenes.
Milo Bitters, a junior at Lawrence High School, oversees display and installation for Hang12.
For him, the curatorial board is about showing the value of art for both Lawrence as a city and for students who may look to art for a career one day.
“We put together group shows and events to feature local student artists, both from high school and college, who might not have ever gotten to show their work before,” Bitters said. “We hope to help kids realize that maybe they really could have a future as an artist. Hang12 also sees the value in producing local art events, especially in Lawrence. We want to help forward that appreciation of local art events into the future.”
Hang12 started in 2015 with the goal of creating a space for students to show their art. Since then, the group has downsized their output with an aim to focus more on quality than quantity. The group puts out a community show every few months with themes and creations chosen by their board.
“We pretty much aim to make local artists more known,” Free State High School senior Akosua Danso said.
The group’s nine students meet weekly to discuss upcoming shows. In their meetings, the group does a combination of planning, brainstorming, printing shirts, framing work, emailing artists and touring spaces.
“Hang12 is small but mighty,” Bitters said. “Just because we are a team of high schoolers does not mean we are not any less devoted to our job and purpose. We pride ourselves in our work.”
Members of Hang12 work as a group to create the theme and design of their community shows. The entire project is student-run, including the website and social media, and the students take charge of the creative process.
“Something really great about Hang12 is that our members are paid and we’re able to have a sense of ownership for the things we do,” said LHS junior Tessa Collar, who is Hang12’s show coordinator.
“We run our website and Instagram, pick how we want to organize and run shows, the material we want in the shows, and do the actual hanging and setup of shows.”
Hang12 will host a show next month titled “Snap Out!” that aims to snap out of the norm with an immersive exhibit. The show will be from 4 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, May 14 at the Lawrence Arts Center’s new studio at 1000 Massachusetts St.
The group is a unique avenue for artistic expression from community members, especially students.
“I think Hang12 is a really special program because it gives students interested in the art community actual experience and lots of hands-on learning opportunities to understand how art shows and other art projects and events are planned and executed,” Collar said.
“… It feels really valuable and satisfying to be gaining experience and skills that I can use in the future while creating fun events, installations and shows for people to enjoy.”
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Cuyler Dunn (he/him), a contributor at The Lawrence Times, is a senior at Lawrence High School and editor-in-chief of The Budget, the school’s student newspaper. He was named the Kansas Student Journalist of the Year and will attend the KU School of Journalism in the fall with the John P. & Mary Kaiser scholarship.
See more of his work for the Times here.