Imagination Academy — Master Artist Michael Bernard Stevenson Jr. (2023)

Imagination Academy — Master Artist Michael Bernard Stevenson Jr. (1)

Imagination Academy

The Imagination Academy (IA) facilitates events and activities, for young people to cultivate and expand their imagination. IA activities gathers the ideas and inspirations of the young person(s), and creates a conduit for actualizing their dreams. This creates opportunities for participants to practice skills and abilities with which they are unfamiliar, but contribute to their self stated goal. The collaborative process and resulting exhibition contribute to the development of self confidence in each participant.

I often work with young people who are children of my close friends. Once my friends began to have children I realized this was an audience who well fit my primary creative interests while holding the dualistic positionality of being born to an existing loved one. I began to realize that these little people represent an audience that will age through an awareness of me and my artist practice allowing for a slowly growing potency of the work’s value.

Afro Contemporary Art Class

The Afro Contemporary Art Class is a program that I teach weekly on Fridays after school atthe King School Museum of Contemporary Art. The objective of the class is to help young people of African descent to learn more about the histories and contemporary contexts that shape their lives, culture, and social contexts. These ideas are explored by studying contemporary artists and creatives as a conduit to (and a lens for) thinking through a range of experiences related to the African diaspora. The investigations begin with presenting an artist's work to the class, teasing out the underlying contexts in the work, and then presenting about the people, events, and outcomes surrounding those contexts.

In the Afro Contemporary Art Class young people reflect on their place and position to the contexts explored. We’re collaborating to develop a publication about what they’ve learned in ways that they’ve chosen to express an understanding of that content. Young people will also participate in the creation of a film, working together to script and perform scenes from the historical contexts we learned about throughout the class.

Some of the artists we’ve explored in depth so far are: Nyame Brown, Emory Douglas, and Hank Willis Thomas with many other artists referenced in-between.

(Video) Master Artist Michael Bernard Stevenson Jr. — KSMoCA Artist-In-Residence Lecture Series

The Wild Slide

The Wild Slide is a story written by an 8 year old friend of mine named Aryanna Khodorkovskaya. She had written the story prior to my invitation to collaborate, however I had heard that the story was a great one and asked if I could read it. The Wild Slide was quite descriptive in nature which provided a more than adequate foundation for creating imagery for the book.

I put some time and careful consideration into each page illustration. I wrote out the letters by hand, and scanned all the components to later assemble digitally. Using Amazon Direct Publishing I was able to produce physical copies of the book that are now available here!

Our publication was featured on a holiday blog written by a friend of Aryanna’s grandmother Mary which can be found here.

Harrison Park School Interplanetary Contemporary Art Fair

The 2019 Art and Social Practice Assembly Conference took place in Southeast Portland Oregon and the project I conceived for it was the Harrison Park School Interplanetary Contemporary Art Fair Sponsored By Imagination Academy. The idea began with an interest to work with young people who lived within the region of the wider Assembly Conference to make drawings for the 2019 Assembly catalogue. For a few days of engagement I worked with young people to respond to prompts about each of the projects by creating an accompanying drawing.

Some of the drawings produced ended up in the the 2019 Assembly catalogue, and others were put on exhibition as part of the larger Harrison Park School Interplanetary Contemporary Art Fair. To round out the art fair I invited the Living School of Art, MUDLAND, KSMoCA, Tiny Gallery to show their work, as well as a couple special Imagination Academy features: Real Food Faux Ship with Beatrice Red Star Fletcher and Elijah Joseph Turner-Nelson’s first ever solo exhibition of artwork.

Collaborating with Elijah

Elijah is a young person with whom I connected with in September 2017 through King School Museum of Contemporary Art (KSMoCA) Mentorship Program at King Elementary School. Together we explore ideas and activities that are of common interest to us both. Taking turns leading the explorations so that each of us is coming away with new skills and understanding.

We have a piece on exhibition at KSMoCA of a collaborative project featuring drawings of Elijah’s favorite toy, a “Batman Elevator,” and a sculptural representation in response to the drawings,which is now a part of their permanent collection We’ve also completed a collaborative drawing of a bridge to submit to a juried show at Longview Public Library. We’ve explored cooking as a practical skill and artistic medium that can encourage healthy life habits and be shared with others. We’ve made a wearable “Power Suit” of Elijah’s design. Worked together to create a pop up store called Well Made Toy’s co. And we’re currently working on a large scale triptych of his favorite anime characters.

(Video) Artist Michael Bernard Stevenson Jr. — Blacula — KSMoCA Artist-In-Residence Lecture Series


BEAM LARP is a workshop I offered at, Beam Camp in Strafford NH in July of 2018 in collaboration with Simon Rabatin. Beam Camp was founded to provide young people with exciting experiences in creative problem-solving through working with their hands and actively collaborating with others.

Live Action Role Playing is when participants physically portray characters of fictional or historical design. In BEAM LARP players pursued goals within a fictional dystopian future that they co-created through sharing concerns they had about the world we live in. The fictional universe is represented by a real world setting and participants interact with each other in character while playing through the fantasy universe augmented with cardboard cutouts of the enemies they were facing.

On the first day participants made character’s and shared their concerns for the world as we know it. In between the first and second day I made game mechanisms for each of the items and abilities they designed, as well as a map for the playable universe. On the second and third days of the workshop each participant played through the storyline in the co-created universe.

The result was an epic final battle against a cybernetic dragon that was controlled by the supercomputer that was originally designed by a corrupt government which then developed sentience and turned on human kind. The final blow was struck by Parl, a character that seemed to literally never hit a target throughout the entirety of the game, however on a lucky, double roll with initiative, struck down the fearsome dragon in one mighty flash of a trans-dimensional void that sucked the dragon and super computer into another universe. Never, to be seen, again....

Friend Fight Club

Friend Fight Club is a participatory activity I offered at, Beam Camp in Strafford NH in July of 2018. Beam Camp was founded to provide young people with exciting experiences in creative problem-solving through working with their hands and actively collaborating with others.

Friend Fight Club pits two frendponents against one another in a competition to see which frendponent can best respond to prompts that are drawn at random. Each friendponent’s performance will be scored by a jury of their peers. After each round friendponents join each other forming a team to square off in the next bout of two vs. two.

Finn Builds A Galaxy

“Finn Builds A Galaxy” is a collaboration between Finn Connaughton and I. When given an opportunity to exhibit work at the Chehalem Cultural Center I had inquired as to whether there were any local youth who would be excited to participate in a collaborative approach to the generation of work for the show. Connaughton’s name quickly emerged, already well known for his creative talents in the community at age 6 is a major accomplishment. Connaughton hailing from Carlton, I ventured to his family home to meet for the first time. Upon entry I noticed that the house’s walls were covered in Connaughton’s artwork. Nearly a professional already, all Connaughton needed was his first big break, and I was happy to help facilitate.

We met over toys, past, and present artworks strewn about the floor and we both felt an instant chemistry. With the nature and dimensions of the installation space in mind, a preexisting excitement about sending young minds into space, and newly aware of Connaughton’s penchant for creative production I pitched collaboration to create a solar system to hang in the mezzanine space. Connaughton, simultaneously reluctant and excited, agreed, and thus planning the mission to space began.

Exhibition Press

(Video) IDENTITY — Master Artist Michael Bernard Stevenson Jr. w/ Lisa Jarrett KSMoCA Lecture Series

Natasha Goes To The Moon

Natasha Goes to the Moon is a short movie starting Natasha Khodorkovskaya. I collaborated with the entire Khordorkovskiy family to develop the set, rehearse the production, and record the final film. A special thanks to The Nicolas Dosh Fund. Filmed and edited by Samantha Sloan-Wichert.

Real Food Faux Truck Food Truck

For the 2018 Art and Social Practice Assembly Conference in Portland Oregon I conceived of Real Food, Faux Truck, Food Truck (RFFTFT) in an intergenerational collaboration with young artists to make real food behind a fake truck facade.

Collaborating with Eliya

In 2018 I was invited to participate in the King School Museum of Contemporary Art International Art Fair. I collaborated with Eliya, one of the students at Martin Luther King Jr. School, to create some wood sculptures for exhibition. To make the work we took turns choosing pieces of wood to add to the sculpture in somewhat of an exquisite corpse fashion. Once the wood sculptures were complete, and installed, we worked together to choose plastic action figures. Eliya was delighted to make some sales, and take home his favorite of the group, a wood sculpture with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Raphael and Star Wars’ Yoda action figures attached to it.

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Johannes Goes To Space

Johannes Tesfahun is the three-year old son of my highschool friend Rahel. He is a collaborator who has the earnest desire to be an astronaut and pilot a rocket ship into space. Our collaboration began the day we met while visiting Seattle in 2018 with an inquiry about his favorite toy which was a spaceship. Together we are collaborating to design and build a space station attached to a volcano for Johannes board and launch into space riding a handmade rocket. This inaugural mission will be recorded and made into a documentary called Johannes Goes to Space.

So far I’ve created and prepared various inspiring drawings, prints, pins, and post cards and sent them to Johannes so that he can begin to imagine how his adventure through space will go!


PlayTime is a project that centers an audience of young people and involves setting up a workshop where young people will be. As young people approach the workshop they see a treasure trove of thrift store toys and become intrigued. Once their attention is captured I engage and share that I will make a custom toy just for them if they fill out a PlayTime order form.

I interpret their inputs on the form, but also closely monitor which toys they are being drawn to. We start a dialogue and pick a few items from the smorgasbord that reflect their interests. I take the selected toys and begin to synthesize a new one by sewing the various selections together. This is quite the amazing event as the young person observes their innermost desires manifested before them.

Once the toy is complete their parent and/or guardian finalizes the transaction with the signing of a contract. There are fields for both the young person and parent/guardian to sign promising to commit to invest time and attention in each other.

Through this practice PlayTime offers young people exposure to the ability to subvert what is accessible and manifest their dreams. As the parent/guardians watch their child interact with me they have the opportunity to see just how easy it is to give their children a portrait of actively engaging, believing, and manifesting their greatest dreams. And finally the contract helps everyone to see the agreements they need to make with each other, and themselves, to have infinite access to this incredibly form of power and prosperity.

Magic School

Magic school is an artist project I did in collaboration with Shawn Creeden where we taught students in Ms. Ellis’ 3rd Grade class how to make wands, write spells, and cast them. First we led them through the enchanted forest to select a wand, and then to magical chest of treasures full of magical talismans. Then at the synthesis lab we assembled their magical wands by binding the two together. Next we gave them each a spell book in which to write their spells. We talked them through identifying what they would think, say, and do to successfully cast their respective spells of choice. At the end we had each of them cast their spell in front of the group who looked on offering them encouragement along the way!

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