Live music and poetry could be heard blocks away from the museum downtown as crowds formed to take part in one of Santa Cruz’s newest festivals.

The IDEA Fest, which stands for Identity, Diversity and Expression through Art, was held agt the Museum of Art and History (MAH) and featured interactive programs including film screenings, live music and mural making.

“In the museum, we’re not seeing a lot of teens,” Dobkins said. “We really want to make art and culture more accessible to them and also provide a safe, cool place to hang out on a Friday night that comes with an educational experience.”

Subjects to Change, a program directed by the MAH, organized the event, bringing high school students together from across Santa Cruz County. The 250-person event asked patrons to think critically about stereotypes, primarily through the lens of identity and sexuality.

“We focus on arts for social change, particularly by looking at community issues with things like safety and individuality, as well as raising awareness for those issues using various arts and creative experiences,” Dobkins said. “What’s really formed are these teen nights.”

Composed of teens between the ages of 13 and 17, Subjects to Change creates programs aimed at motivating teens to engage with the community and opportunities surrounding them. It was founded by the MAH’s youth programs manager Emily Dobkin.

The primary tools Subjects to Change uses while hosting events at the MAH are artistic projects — the focus of IDEA Fest. Some of those activities included “Stereotype Snapshots,” which had people reflect on how they identify themselves.

Last Friday’s IDEA Fest was the second teen night Subjects to Change organized at the MAH. Every activity challenged participants to reflect on how they identify themselves and others. Christina Cheney, one of the 14 teens behind Subjects to Change, helped create the “Stereotype Snapshots” activity.

“Wherever you are, you get a certain label,” Cheney said. “But here we wanted people to break it down and say who they are. Just to see the contrast between it.”

“Stereotype Snapshots” had visitors choosing from a pile of cardboard adjectives that are common stereotypes, including words like nerdy, artsy and girly. After choosing a label participants felt they had been identified as before, they were tasked with writing what they thought of themselves. The choice of label and description were then combined with a photo, displaying the different ways identity can be perceived.

Santa Cruz Youth City Council, Mariposa’s Art and several UCSC graduates were a few groups Subjects to Change brought together to provide a support network for the continued discussion of identity and stereotypes.

“There was no real outlet in Santa Cruz for teens to get involved so this is a way for them to organize,” said MAH community engagement associate Elise Granata. “A lot of them feel like they don’t have a place in Santa Cruz or a way to belong. This is a way for them to express how they feel.”



The Subjects to Change teens meet every Thursday to create art and discuss how they can promote change throughout Santa Cruz. More information about the MAH and Subjects to Change can be found at