Transitional Space: An Exploration of Adolescent Identity and Homelessness

An exhibition
curated by

Navah Steiner and
Rene A. Ortiz

Safe Space, New York

  Navah Steiner and Rene A. Ortiz

Adolescence is a time of identity formation and profound physical and emotional changes. It can be a period of healthy transformation and growth, but without family and community support it can also be a time of anxiety and despair. As drama therapists at Safe Space we witness youth struggle with growing up on the streets. Their sense of self is impacted by the harsh realities of abuse, violence, HIV and unstable relationships. Often the results are isolation and shame. We find that creative and artistic expression is at times the only way in which they can find meaning within the chaos of their lives.

"When we started looking through the Visual AIDS Archive in search of an 'adolescent identity,' I was reminded of the beauty and horror of my own adolescence. Working on a daily basis with youth keeps me in touch with the awkwardness of sexuality and the body, the rebellion towards any form of authority, and the wonder of discovery. I hope our selection reflects the adolescent voice inside us all."
-- Navah Steiner

"These artworks reflect my experience working with homeless adolescents. They represent the physical and emotional transformations of young people's bodies and minds. On another level, the works embody the homeless experience through young people's eyes, the horror of being without shelter and the illusion of being self-sufficient and independent of others."
-- Rene A. Ortiz

We would like to dedicate this exhibition to the homeless youth of New York, in their struggle to survive on the streets.


Rene A. Ortiz and Navah Steiner met during their graduate studies at the NYU Drama Therapy program. They currently co-direct the Creative Arts Therapy Program at Safe Space, Homeless Youth Services. Navah and Rene work at the Drop-In center and Safe Home, a residential program for HIV-positive adolescents. They facilitate individual and group sessions that incorporate drama, movement, art, music and recreational therapy. For more information on Safe Space, go to:


Visual AIDS: 526 w 26th st no 510 new york, new york 10001
tel: 212.627.9855 fax: 212.627.9815 email:

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