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Chelsea Hu has been the head of an innovative art non-profit that stretches across the globe in participation and impact, for nearly three years; all of it accomplished while under the age of 18. Hu’s idea was born from an abiding love for art and was conjured up at a leadership camp hosted in Beijing. 

Amidst a bad storm, the leadership student volunteers at Sun Village orphanage were riding out the torrential rain with activities for the children. Hu led drawing classes and saw the kids interact well with the medium, driven by creation.

“Artistic expression transcends cultural and political arguments,” Hu said. “Young artists can be powerful; they can express the anxieties of their time; they can present narratives of hope; they can raise awareness for important causes; and they can draw new audiences of families and friends into business establishments.”

As a fine artist herself, Hu was familiar with the difficulties young artists experience without a broad exhibition of their work. Being active in the community also made Hu privy to the struggle local museums and businesses undergo with few visitors and patrons. The amalgamation of her passions and knowledge led Hu to found the Teen Mobile Arts (TMA) organization for her community of fellow young artists.

She was drawn to creating a collaborative environment for young artists to lean on one another over shared trials and pursuits. The beginning of TMA was centered around exposure for both the artists exhibiting their work and the local museums, shops, and businesses offering their spaces.

In the same spirit as organizing the activities with the children at Sun Village, the TMA artists hosted art workshops in libraries to make the “chance to express themselves and develop a passion for the arts” accessible to all children, said Hu. The TMA team donated more than their time and experience to sharing art.

The TMA team’s Global Pandemic Mask Initiative funded the donation of 5,000 masks to senior homes, cancer patients, and hospitals both local and international through the auction of their artwork. Once businesses started re-opening, the young local artists gathered to make chalk art “to bring love, encouragement, hope, and support to the community,” Hu said.

TMA is centered around building mutually-constructive relationships with the communities the artists are local to. While the successes of TMA fuel their artists’ careers, Hu said the “expanded audience enables them to support the charities they care about.” TMA has grown from exhibitions in local buildings to an online gallery connecting nations and benefiting international charities. With nearly 100 sales, in excess of $30,000 raised, and more than 50,000 international youth benefitted, TMA is just getting started.

Having grown from McLean to a global scale, Hu established the International Museum Youth Council (IMYC) as an executive board for TMA with global contributors who serve as catalysts for connection between TMA and international museums and artists. The IMYC has stretched the reach of TMA and created prosperous partnerships with 15 museums and organizations across the globe–from the African Art Museum of Maryland to Sheng Art Space in China.

TMA has brought popularity to exhibiting the work of young artists. Hu said their community of artists recognize the “necessity of including STEM minds, business minds, and arts minds at the table when working towards impactful change.” The objective behind TMA, Hu said, is to represent the powers of artistic expression by rising above boundaries–both real and imagined–to “mobilize and unite artists around the globe regardless of their financial and social status.”

Back from a silent pandemic, TMA artists have an ongoing exhibition at the CCACC Art Gallery until February 25, 2022 and are looking forward to future art celebrations and shows. Hu has spoken to and will continue to speak “with global changemakers to spread the mission” of TMA in broadening artist representation within its organization.

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