Direct Message

Direct Message.teen art exhibition
Direct Message
Thas it, right there
That goin' be the name, direct message right there
Box that one, that's the name
Who like Direct Message? Raise yo hand!
How you goin' say it?
Black lives matter
Cuz look, we got a message, and it's gonna be direct
We sendin' a message to show how people can come together and work on a project and get it done
There we go, yeah!
It's a direct message to society of the misconception that they have on us young black minorities


Looking at teen exhibit from outside Central Library's main entrance.
Exhibition was on display at Madison's Central Library, May-August 2016.  [SEE MAP]
  • Daytime: larger than life power pose exhibit outside of the main entrance.
  • Nighttime: shadow projection show on the outside of the 2nd Floor windows, above the main entrance.
  • Listen to Faisal Abdu'Allah discuss the project on Madison's local WORT 8 O'CLOCK BUZZ.


Direct Message was an exhibit created by teens through Madison Public Library's Bubbler program, which tapped community resources to foster this 15-week project in hands-on, peer-supported learning and digital literacy. Bubbler teens were addressing the nation's widest black/white educational opportunity gap and highest per capita black juvenile arrest and incarceration rate in Dane County, Wisconsin, with this semester-long project allowing them to explore and redefine their own public image.


Thank you FAISAL ABDU'ALLAH and the many other artists, educators and activists who have made this exhibit possible, including:

Johanna Boyle
Rob Dz
Kay DeWaide
Matt Feifarek
Institute of Museum and Library Services
Dana Johnson
Richard Jones
Just Bakery
Madison Graphics
Claire Mason
Morgridge Center for Public Service
Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment
Nazka Serrano
Meg Sill
UW-Madison School of Library & Information Studies
Manon van de Water
Albert Watson
Jeremy Wineberg
Orion Wells

Northland says:

I want to jump so high I never come down.

Northland portrait cropped
Northland portrait cropped
This is me. If they see my picture, this guy could be one of the best basketball players. Will be one of the best basketball players. It means never miss a shot. I want to jump so high I never come down. If I don't make it to basketball, then football. Boxing, too. If I don't make it in basketball, I want to be a policeman. I want to be in the K-9 unit so I can teach my own dog. I always wanted to do that. 

Behind the Scenes 3


Northland Photographs Faisal
Photographing artist Faisal Abdu'Allah

Northland snapshot


Northland portrait

Bossz says:

My direct message is being like a strong young man

Bossz portrait cropped
Bossz portrait cropped
My direct message is being like a strong young man that’s capable of doing anything. For instance, picking up a house is a hard challenge, but you can accomplish it. Basically what I’m trying to get at is if you pick the hardest thing and you can keep going and try to accomplish it, sooner or later, you will have everything where you need it to be. 

The Direct Message title, I chose that. It felt good to choose something. At first when we was givin’ out titles and stuff, I was just playing around with the name Direct Message. Well, I said DM actually. And then I changed it to Direct Message, like to write it out, ‘cause that seem more presentable and more professional. Everybody look at it and be like “we need to go check on that and see what it’s about” so that’s why I chose Direct Message instead of DM, so people would know what it’s about.
Bo$z Photo Shoot 2
Setting up a shot

Bo$z Camera
Bo$$z steps behind the camera with Faisal Abdu'Allah
Bo$z Silhouette
Shadow silhouette
Bossz portrait

Picasso says:

I can draw. I can write. I can speak.

Slider image of Picasso
Slider image of Picasso
I’m unique. I can draw. I can write. I can speak. I’m a little nervous about what people will think. I want people to know that there’s different people. Teens should have a place in the library.

Picasso's portrait of a man
Tie, Picasso

Picasso brown paper silhouette
Brown paper silhouette, Picasso

Picasso behind sheet
Choreographing silhouettes with Faisal Abdu'Allah

Picasso silhouette

Picasso silhouette glasses
Catching the light

Picasso full size portrait
Direct Message main label
Direct Message main label
An exhibit like Direct Message doesn't happen without hours of work behind the scenes revising, reshooting, and reviewing. Here's a look into what it took for us. All photos by Direct Message participants, Spring 2016.

Showing how to use camera

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