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Student Spotlight: Nakiya’h Longstreet

Nakiya’h stands next to his artwork, which is published on the cover of Marwen’s Fall 2019 course brochure

Fifteen-year-old Nakiya’h Longstreet shares how he broke out of his comfort zone with the help of relationships he built at Marwen. When Nakiya’h signed up for courses at Marwen in 2015, he had no idea just how involved he’d be in the program.

“As soon as you walk through that door, you see a bunch of walls covered in artwork. I was like whoa, who did all of this? It was really like a crazy experience -- coming from no idea what this place is to now, like wow, this is really a beautiful place,” Nakiya’h shared.

Nakiya’h, who started at Marwen as a shy 7th grader, is now an active community artist who’s consistently taking on new projects. He has participated in Marwen’s Student Advisory Board for two years, where he works with ten students to share ideas on how to support Marwen’s students, families, and community. This past spring he helped organize a workshop for Marwen students.

Marwen students creating art in the “Splatter and Marble: Fun with Paint” workshop
“We did a Splatter in Paint workshop, and that was my first time being able to teach. I used to have stage fright, and it just gave me the opportunity to overcome that fear, to talk to people.”

After taking eight visual arts courses at Marwen, Nakiya’h continues to dive into street art, digital and darkroom photography, film, comics, painting, and many more art mediums. He’s especially grown an interest in photography and connecting it to his perspective as a young artist living in Chicago.

Untitled, by Nakiya'h Longstreet (digital manipulation)

“My photography, it’s like Chicago almost. But it’s different points of views. For example, the train -- the brown line right here -- trains going by, the cars going by, people walking, like everyday life in Chicago.”

There are several wonderful photo courses offered in Chicago at museums, schools, and other youth development programs. Nakiya’h makes a point of how he enjoys coming to Marwen because of its free programs, his relationships, and the space itself.

“Some of these art classes like darkroom photography, that’s really expensive and I know personally I don’t have enough money to pay for that. So I’m glad Marwen does help. Even if you live far away they try to help with transit, CTA, public transportation. They do try to help you as much as they can. They [make] sure all of the students are good, they check on us, come to our classes, they ask how we’re doing. I really like that.”

Nakiya’h has developed a network of connections to Chicago artists through his courses at Marwen. He stays in close touch with his teaching artists and continues to build new relationships across the city.

“On social media I would sometimes follow my teaching artist to see what art are they doing next. I like to keep in touch with them to show them how much I’m improving in my art,” Nakiya’h says. “I really look up to [Jasmin Dura] because she showed me a bunch of cool stuff. She introduced me to a graffiti artist by the name of Ally 6, and I see him around Chicago. That teaching artist really helped me refine my name -- like my tag name, my brand, my logo.”

Through his experiences as a young artist and meeting other Chicago artists, Nakiya’h has realized that for his future he wants to continue venturing into different realms of design.

Nakiya’h Longstreet in Marwen’s Painting & Drawing studio

“I just don’t want to have one job. I want to be like all around. I want to have a career in two to three different fields if that’s even possible. I know I want to do some medium of art. Whether I do photography or [be] a professional art teacher.”

Nakiya’h plans to continue taking courses at Marwen and building his relationships for the rest of his high school career. Currently, he’s eager to participate in Art Fair, Marwen’s annual fundraiser which exhibits and sells original student work. He has sold his work at the event before. “It made me feel good [selling work], because I feel like people like my work. I used to criticize my own work.”

Nakiya’h plans to participate in Marwen Lab, a six-month immersion program where high school students apply to work independently on their own personal projects with Chicago artists as their mentors.

Untitled, by Nakiya'h Longstreet (mixed media)

“I really want to go big and beyond with my upcoming artwork.”

I definitely want to take advantage of Marwen Lab, because that’s like really big here. It’s half a whole year of just making art, and teaching artists are supporting you. You could turn Marwen Lab pieces into really big pieces that give you exposure to organizations. I really want to go big and beyond with my upcoming artwork.”

Nakiya’h’ also plans to sign up for Art at Work, Marwen’s paid summer internship program where high school students can apply to work with organizations and companies like The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Spudnik Press, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and many more creative spaces across Chicago. “As I stay at Marwen I just want to take advantage of every opportunity I can.”

Nakiya’h is also passionate about sharing his and Marwen’s resources with his friends and community. “I take some [Marwen course] brochures sometimes. I pass them out to kids in my neighborhood. [I say] Here’s my school and I know new students come in every year and I want to keep introducing people to I could keep bonding with people, making connections, friendships, relationships with people.”

Outside of Marwen, Nakiya’h plans his own photoshoots, plays basketball with his friends, skateboards, and meets with other Marwen students even though they’re across the city.

“I like hanging out with my family and friends, making art with my friends; like doing my little photoshoots, meetups, stuff like that,” Nakiya’h says. “I’m like [let’s] meet somewhere in the middle because I live north, they live south. So let’s meet downtown.”

Nakiya’h Longstreet poses in front of a student-designed billboard at Marwen

When a fellow Marwen student asked Nakiya’h to model for him as part of a Marwen course, he was up for it, but he wasn’t sure where exactly it would lead.

“Someone was just like ‘hey, you want to take a picture? You want to be put on the billboard?’ I was just like sure, go ahead. And I didn’t actually think it would be on the front of the school. It’s crazy that it’s still there, and that makes me smile every time I come to Marwen.”


Nakiya’h will be selling three art pieces this year at Art Fair on Friday, November 1, including mixed media and digital manipulation work. To purchase tickets to Art Fair 2019, visit

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