PlatteForum celebrates Hero Lab, a kid-created graphic novel, with free party Friday

So, you've got a kid, huh? Whether it's your own rambunctious preschooler or the bratty nephew you've been charged with keeping alive for the next five hours, the most important thing is leaving your house where valuables are liable to be destroyed and seeking refuge on somebody else's property. In this series, we'll be exploring fun and quirky local spots that are kid-tastic and adult-friendly, too.

This summer at PlatteForum, thirteen at-risk high-school students partnered with Colfax Community Network (CCN), an organization advocating for children and families residing in transient housing along Colfax Avenue, to collaborate with 25 kids, all ages six to eleven, and create a graphic novel. It was all part of PlatteForum's annual ArtLab summer literacy program. The result is a non-linear graphic adventure filled with goofy stories in various settings -- everything from prehistoric to outer space -- that challenge readers to consider what, exactly, makes somebody a hero.

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PlatteForum created ArtLab back in 2001 as a way to support underserved youth through the creative process. The year-round program won a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program award a few years ago, and it continues to win fans here in town.

Participating ArtLab interns spent nine Saturdays this past spring at Pop Culture Classroom, where they learned the ins and outs of comic-book construction and creating super heroes. "They ended their project with work being displayed at this year's Comic Con," says Alex Jimenez, a Platteforum staff member who oversaw the program.

Then this summer, the high school interns engaged and mentored CCN students in eight daylong workshops, where the kids learned everything from character development to layout and vocabulary as they collaborated on a choose-your-own-adventure graphic novel. ArtLab interns and staff also assisted CCN students with drawing, photography and digital design -- all of which were used to complement their hero tales.

"The whole project is called Hero Lab, and the students each came up with their interpretation of what the word 'hero' means and what a hero looks like," explains Jimenez. One girl even chose her mom to be the hero of her story, he adds.

From 1 to 3 p.m. on Friday, July 18, ArtLab will celebrate the completion of the 2014 storybook with a free party at PlatteForum. Light snacks and drinks will be provided for guests of all ages, and the participating ArtLab interns and CCN comic-book authors will be available to chat about their experiences; a few will even read from the newly completed book, which PlatteForum hopes to publish later this year. For more information, visit PlatteForum's website.

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