The YEA Collective is a group of artists, educators, activists, and organizers who are passionate about social justice, community engagement, and youth empowerment. Learn more about the current YEA members and their inspiration behind joining the collective!
Emilia Ditkoff (she/her)
Mimi (Emilia) is a 23 year old Artist and Art Teacher in the Holyoke Public schools. Originally from Woodstock, NY, she graduated from Hampshire College in 2019 where she studied Critical Pedagogy and Art/Social Justice Education. Now she works with youths from Kindergarten through 8th grade. She is an organizer for the YEA collective because she believes that social justice art has the power to change perspectives, uplift voices, foster difficult conversations, and empower communities. She believes that youth voices deserve to be centered, empowered, and amplified in this process. “Youth are our future, and we can learn so much from them if we listen.”
Mars (Mari Champagne) (she/her)
Mars says that since elementary school, art has always been the budding source of her voice. To express and create with her full body is freeing and connects her with her mind, soul, and mission- to empower herself and the world around her. So many people in the world today, especially our youth, struggle with self expression, definition, and love. As a full time creator and member of the Youth Empowerment Arts Collective, her mission is to support youth, community, and group members in self empowerment through the arts. “When words fail, art prevails!”
Chelvanaya Gabriel (they/them)
Chelvanaya is a multimedia art activist/storyteller, resilience facilitator, community organizer and science educator. A self-taught artist, they found an Audre Lorde-inspired form of self-care and healing-survival in creating visual work after the 2016 election. They are involved with several community art projects and helping build the YEA Collective is important because youth voices, particularly those most impacted by systems of oppression, must be centered and uplifted.
Julian Gabelus (he/him)
Julian has been a freelance photographer and videographer since 2010. As an avid people person and watcher, he is well suited for capturing unique candids in street photography and intimate everyday moments. A student of mindfulness and yoga, he finds himself most comfortable behind his lens. “While absorbing the world around me I can truly feel present.” Julian has a Media Arts degree from Westfield State University and has been mainly self taught when it comes to developing his own style. He says his adaptability is his favorite superpower, because it helps him to hone in on client needs and vision. If he’s not out taking photos for sharpening his craft, he’s free to work on projects. “So, reach out to me and I look forward to hearing from you.”
Isis Badone (she/her)
Isis is a recent graduate of UMass Amherst with a degree in Sustainable Community Development concentrated in green infrastructure and climate change, and a minor in Political Science. Her undergraduate career allowed her to amplify her foundational knowledge on ways to revitalize urban spaces, community engagement tactics, along with ways to achieve social equity. While her Political Science pursuit allowed her to focus on the history behind Black America and the African diaspora. She has a passion to inspire and influence a more mindful future socially, financially, and environmentally. This brought her to the YEA collective to start with making a change at the source, through youth empowerment.
Nora Gilchrist (she/her)
Nora is an artist and art teacher with a long professional history in education, art, community and working with young people. She has witnessed the transformative power of art many times over, whether that’s in the act of creation or in viewing/experiencing art, which drives her to be a part of the YEA Collective.
Alana Young-Morrison (she/her)
Alana is an art educator, receiving her degree from Hampshire College. She is passionate about changing and bettering the education system as well as art activism and empowering youth to find their voice through the arts. Her passions brought her to the YEA Collective.
Aaron Richardson (he/him)
Aaron studies political education at Hampshire College. He joined this team in support of making a statement for black liberation, combatting police brutality all while doing so through the voice of our youth. He believes it’s imperative for us to not only speak up during intense periods of injustice and civil unrest but to also center voices of young people and people of color.
Kelley Leonhard (she/her)
Kelley is a history student at UMass Lowell, her area of research is the colonial north Atlantic. She has a particular interest in material culture and interdisciplinary research. This is her first time working on a public art project, and the opportunity to be involved in a youth/community based project is what drew her to YEA.
Jessica Daury (she/her)
Jessica graduated from UMass Amherst where she studied Sustainable Community Development, Anthropology, and Community Engagement. She began her involvement in the YEA Collective to participate in influential projects that demonstrate the power of art while encouraging youth to use their voices and be leaders for social change.