A commitment to helping youth experience, explore, and excel in the arts has been the cornerstone of The Art Effect’s mission since the organization’s inception in 2018. In the last few years, the Poughkeepsie-based nonprofit has developed a robust array of initiatives—from art classes to a youth workforce development program, summer camps, exhibitions, and even a photography and film festival—as part of its goal to help young people develop their creative voices, shape their futures, and bring about positive social change.
Now, the organization is bringing that mission into the streets of Poughkeepsie with its first annual PKX Festival: three days of performances, music, food, exhibitions, and public art taking place Thursday through Saturday, September 15-17. The event will be free of charge and open to the public.
An Arts Festival Curated Entirely by Youth
The PKX festival is part of The Art Effect’s larger goal to create a Youth Arts Empowerment Zone in downtown Poughkeepsie. In April of 2021, the organization received a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts’ Our Town Program to support the creation of a Youth Arts Empowerment Zone (YAEZ) in downtown Poughkeepsie.
The grant, one of 63 nationwide, supports projects integrating arts, culture, and design activities into efforts to strengthen communities and create sustainable systemic change. The Art Effect's 10-year plan is to establish a youth arts district along Main Street through placemaking events and activities held in and around the iconic Trolley Barn, the home of the Art Effect’s gallery.
A central part of the festival’s place in the YAEZ is that it’s been entirely planned and implemented by a group of teens on the PKX Youth Committee, with support and guidance from The Art Effect’s Trolley Barn Fellow, artist Destiny Kearney, a recent graduate of Bowdoin College whose work across mediums focuses on depictions of Blackness in art.
“I love being able to participate in laying the stepping stones of the development of a Youth Arts Empowerment Zone in the City of Poughkeepsie,” says Kearney. “The PKX Festival will truly highlight the wonders that exist in the city, and I’m excited to see the community come together to make it happen.”
In the months leading up to the festival, the PKX Youth Committee has been working closely with the city, local artists, stakeholders, and community partners. In the process, they have been learning valuable tools of the leadership belt, from community organizing to nonprofit administration, civil service, and public speaking.
The Influence of PKX Festival Guest Artist BoogieRez
As part of the planning of the festival, the PKX Youth Committee selected duo artist team BoogieRez to be its guest artist and create a public art installation for the event, which will be unveiled Saturday, September 17 at the Trolley Barn Gallery.
“For me, art in Poughkeepsie is all about letting the community know that their strength and their struggle is heard, and we can communicate it through a visual in a big way,” explains Harrison Brisbon-McKinnon, PKX Youth Committee member and Youth Board Member at The Art Effect.
BoogieRez is made up of Riiisa Boogie (born Risa Tochigia, a Japanese American street artist) and Poughkeepsie native Rez Ones (born TC Weaver, a self-taught visual artist) who—inspired by hip-hop culture—incorporate a creative blend of music, photography, illustration, painting, graphic and fashion design, dance, and sculpture into their work. The two met at Vassar College over a decade ago through an organization founded by Rez called Hip Hop 101. Since meeting, the two have collaborated on everything from fine art to public murals, the latter of which can be found all over the world—from New York City to Miami to Barcelona.
“Honestly my creative adventure really started in Poughkeepsie once I met Rez,” says Riiisa Boogie. “It’s a magical place, Poughkeepsie, it really is. It is amazing that there is just so much different culture in Poughkeepsie. There is a lot of hidden and not-so-hidden talent in the city.”
As part of the duo’s participation in the festival, this past April, BoogieRez invited a group of Poughkeepsie teens to their New York City studio during spring break. During the whirlwind week, the teens worked alongside the artists, learned new techniques, engaged in conversations about the importance and influence of public art, and worked together on BoogieRez’s piece for the festival. “Hopefully we are beacons to help you get wherever you want to get to creatively,” says Rez Ones.
BoogieRez’s installation is just one of the many exciting community-building activities that will be available to festival-goers. Given all the creativity and collaboration that has gone into the planning of the event, September’s PKX festival is likely to inspire a new tradition for years to come.
To learn more about the PKX Festival, visit Pkxfestival.org.