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Photography by Miami native James Balo appears in YoungArts' latest exhibit.EXPAND
Photography by Miami native James Balo appears in YoungArts' latest exhibit.
James Balo

YoungArts' New Photography Exhibit Asks, “Can We Be as Brave?”

Naming the latest YoungArts alumni photography exhibit had Lisa Leone stumped — until exhibitions manager Luisa Munera pointed out Leone had already done it.

Leone, vice president of Artistic Programs at YoungArts and the curator of the show, had been emailing with Munera about the exhibit when Munera sent her a suggestion using Leone's own words. "Luisa came back and showed me the words ‘can I be as brave’ in an email, and she encouraged me to use that for the name,” Leone says.

“The works in the exhibition bravely investigate a variety of topics that are connected through multifaceted conversations about family, home, and community,” Leone explains. "It was really just how raw and personal the photos were, how open and vulnerable they were."

"Can We Be as Brave?" is one of two alumni exhibitions that YoungArts presents annually. This spring show focuses on photography.

"We have two exhibits a year for alumni, one of which is solely visual arts, and we felt we needed to give the photographers some love and give them a platform,” Leone says.

That platform came via YoungArts Post, an online portal where the organization posts opportunities. Staff put a call out for those interested in submitting for this exhibit, and submissions began pouring in. As Leone looked through the pieces, she approached the selection in her own unique way.

“I went on instinct first and then printed them, put them together, and thought to myself, Now this is interesting — instinctively, these artists are all talking about the same thing,” she says. “It was organic how they submitted, and it was a through line that brought these works together.”

A photo by Los Angeles-based artist Angela Francis.EXPAND
A photo by Los Angeles-based artist Angela Francis.
Angela Francis

The 13 photographers all have multiple pieces in the exhibition, and they vary in size and format. Some pieces cover the entire wall on which they’re displayed, measuring 12 feet by eight feet.

Leone also incorporated mirrors into the show, with the idea that “maybe you catch a glimpse of your own reflection and think about the subject matter we’re covering. It might help to ask yourself about community and how you feel about yourself while viewing the works.”

Multiple artists in the exhibition hail from Miami, including James Balo, who now lives in Baltimore. Five of the artists — Miami-based Danny Rosenberg, Arizona-based Haley Hasen, Boca Raton's Eli Dreyfuss, and L.A.-based Angela Francis — will attend the opening Thursday, May 9.

“They were very excited to be chosen, and it’s wonderful there will be several in attendance at our opening, a few of them flying into Miami. It was also nice to hear that other alumni were sharing the same theme,” Leone says.

Curating the show wasn’t something Leone expected to do, but when her colleagues approached her, the answer was a no-brainer.

“I have always kept a distance [from] curating, but they came to me sheepishly to ask because they thought I would say yes. I’ve made such close connections to the artists over my seven years at YoungArts it was easy to convince me to do it,” she says.

It worked out for the best, she adds. “It’s very in line with the work I like personally, which is kind of dark. I like this raw beauty, which is something I love in my own work, so it was an instant yes.”

"Can We Be as Brave?" Opening reception 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 9. On view through September 13 at YoungArts, 2100 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; youngarts.org. Admission is free.

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