Dozens of pictures lined the wall, labeled with short but sweet captions describing military moves through teens' perspectives. This scene was at the Torpedo Art Factory in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia on October 2nd, 2022. Three other fellow Bloom members and I attended this event called Through Our Eyes: Finding Home Again, sponsored by Blue Star Families (BSF) and Community Building Art Works (CBAW). We attended to represent Bloom and share the organization’s ideologies and goals.
As a military teen, I thought this event was put together really well. The event not only showcased the photos taken, but the artists as well. Their creativity shined through the printed photographs. There were pictures of the little numbered stickers put on furniture when moving, last photographs of friends together, and a countdown timer of someone’s last events in their former state. There was also a picture of an artist's soccer cleats and goalie gloves bagged up, something I can personally relate to.
Getting to speak to these artists was also another enjoyable experience. I heard about their sadness of moving yet again, but I also heard a lot of excitement with getting to see new places and meet new people. I was able to relate with them, unlike with my other civilian friends. Some artists told me, taking pictures is how they coped with moving once more. We talked about our former duty stations and shared experiences.
As Bloom team members, Kaitlyn Hsu and I were asked to speak at this event. In a crowded room, we talked about how Bloom understands coping through creating and how we can help connect military kids with one another. The setting was fitting - with fellow photographers and artists surrounding the suite, the Torpedo Factory felt very professional. Just looking around I felt inspired to create; I just wanted to continue exploring. I got to meet the event’s organizer, Seema Reza, and she was so grateful and happy to be part of this project.
In response to our prompt, Reza said, “I’ve been working in the military space for more than a decade, with veterans, service members, military healthcare, and spouses and caregivers—and not being military myself, have devoted a lot of time to trying to understand, but have found so few creative accounts of the experience of military kids and teens. I was genuinely curious about the experience of being at this age of internal transformation and experiencing so much transformation and change externally as well.”
I had the opportunity to meet one of the project sponsors from BSF - Julie Riggs. When I asked her why this project was so important to BSF, she replied, “Through the project, we were able to hear from the teens and see in their photos what the PCS experience was like from their point of view. The project was especially important to me as Chapter Director, and to Blue Star Families because it gave a voice to our military teens and allowed us to better understand the fears, trials, and tribulations, as well as the hopes and excitement these teens felt during their journey to their new homes. It also gave our group of teens who worked on the project an opportunity to connect with other teens who were going through the same things they were and through that common ground, build connections with other military teens who would be living in their new community.”
The whole exhibit was wonderful and the atmosphere embodied the energy of the artists’ work. Being able to see the photographs by these teen artists was amazing, especially because I could relate to them at a deep and emotional level. Having the opportunity to speak in front of these organizations and artists and share our objectives and our stories was an experience I’ll remember and appreciate for a long time to come.