This summer, the first ever Summer of Love Youth Poster Contest was established in Marin by Bruce Burtch, an avid community volunteer and entrepreneur. The competition allowed teenagers aged 12 to 18 to express their opinions and messages about current world problems to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the historic social movement of 1967, where thousands converged in San Francisco to protest government problems and the Vietnam War. On Sept. 8, Tamiscal student Rachel Shindelus won first prize in the age 15 to 18 division, while former Redwood student Haley Bjursten finished second.
The creator of the contest was also a teenager when he first became involved in activism. Burtch was 17 years old in 1967 and was an active advocate for the anti-Vietnam war cause, participating in many protests and marches.
“I created the contest because I wondered what were the youth of today thinking about. With all the same issues of race relations, gender relations, war and climate change, all the things we were fighting about then are still prevalent problems now, and many of them haven’t gotten better or have gotten even worse,” Burtch said.
Burtch established the contest pro-bono, meaning that no participant had to pay an entry fee to enter their poster into the contest. Additionally, no observer has to pay to view the winning posters, currently on display at the Marin Civic Center in San Rafael.
The main purpose of the contest, although centered around the art style of the psychedelic 1960s, had little to do with the actual Summer of Love.
“The idea of the contest was to give youth in Marin a public platform for them to express their views on important topics in our society today, which is why we made our slogan ‘Let your voice be heard,’” Burtch said.
Burtch not only wanted to give students an avenue to publicize their opinions, he also wanted to give back to the students and their schools as well.
Shindelus will receive $150 in art supplies for her first place finish and, in addition, the Tamiscal art program will also receive $150 in art supplies by way of the contest. Bjursten and Redwood’s art program will receive $100 in art supplies individually as well.
“My daughter taught art at an elementary school, and we were constantly having to put our own money into her program to pay for art supplies because schools aren’t giving enough. So we thought it would be great for the winners of the contest and their schools to receive a prize for their efforts,” Burtch said.
As for Bente Mirow, owner of Rileystreet Art Supply, her goal was not as focused on giving youth a voice, but more on popularizing the expression of art to harness that voice.
“When Bruce came to talk to me about displaying the posters here, I realized it was a perfect match,” Mirow said. “For years I have been trying to attract young people to come take classes [at Rileystreet Art Supply] and become interested in art, so when Bruce came and told me about the classes and the exposure the contest would bring, I was really excited to be a part of it.”
Mirow said she felt like she accomplished her goal of making art more prevalent in youth society today because of the amount of interest and involvement she saw. There were 92 contest entries and many children coming to Rileystreet to look at the posters and take classes, such as the free art poster workshop with famous rock poster artist John Mavroudis from The Rock Poster Society.
Shindelus and Bjursten were unavailable for comments, but Redwood art teacher Lauren Bartone saw the contest as a great opportunity for students who aren’t as expressive to be able to vent how they feel.
“I taught Haley as an AP Art student, and she was a very quiet girl. But, when it came to art, she really conveys her beliefs and makes her message known. That’s what’s so great about art. It gives everyone a voice,” Bartone said.
The posters from the Summer of Love Poster Contest are currently on display at the Marin Civic Center, and after their stint they will be moved to the new Haight Street Art Center in San Francisco.