Portraits of The Future: This Year’s Summer Writers Workshop

Every year, 826LA students gather for an immersive five-day workshop on the possibilities of what it means to be a writer. In our Summer Writers Workshop, students engage in writing activities and workshops led by guest writers, artists, and 826LA staff to explore different forms of writing. The goal of the week is to build students’ ability to tell their own stories, as well as their confidence to call themselves writers.

This year, our guest teachers Neela Banerjee, Eric Stolze, Destin Cretton, Miranda Tsang, and Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo talked about the importance of harnessing our origin stories, sharing them widely to an audience, and finding an individual voice within a larger shared culture.

Towards the end of the week, students visited the The Main Museum for a special artist talk with Star Montana and a workshop inspired by the exhibition, I Dream of Los Angeles. In this show, artist and Boyle Heights native, Star, uses East and South LA as a backdrop for her work. The subjects that Montana photographs are strangers she got to know through conversation or close friends with whom she has had an intimate dialogue with for many years.

These portraits shine a light on the beauty and diversity, but also the remarkable hardship of growing up and living in Los Angeles. Each photo is accompanied by wall text that features an excerpt of conversation star had with Main Museum Director Allison Agsten.

Star took students around the gallery, discussing her artistic practice and the process she went through to take each photograph. Perched around Alice Könitz’s Circle Chairs, students then interviewed each other. Who do you consider your community and what makes it worth being apart of? What do you wish were different in the world today, and what do you hope will never change? 

From these questions, students wrote wall text to an imaginary portrait of themselves.

On the very last day of Summer Writers Workshop, photographer Emily Blake made imaginary portraits real and took photos of the students—inspired by I Dream of Los Angelesthat convey the essence of who they are and what matters to them.


The Summer Writers Workshop culminated with a reading at iam8bit, showcasing our students’ brave and original voices to their peers, families, and community. Amidst portraits of themselves and accompanying text hanging on the walls, students took to the mic one by one to read pieces from An Echo Within Ourselves.

At the reading, Star Montana shared with the students her favorite part of her critically acclaimed exhibition—working with the students of 826LA.

“You are the community I wanted to see my show. You are the ones I wanted my show to reach. That is so special to me. And all of this—what you are doing—isn’t easy. But you are doing it.” 

Thank you to the volunteers, students, guest artists, writers, speakers, the Main Museum, and Star Montana for taking a week-long journey with us and giving us a glimpse of the future.

Check out LA Weekly’s piece on Star Montana and 826LA here

To read an excerpt from An Echo Within Ourselves, click here

To view photos of Summer Writers’ Workshop release party and the field trip to the Main Museum, click here

Summer Writers' Workshop Portraits

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