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When members of the Walker Art Center's Teen Arts Council (WACTAC) decided to mount an exhibition of teenage artists, they didn't expect to find themselves up to their necks in soap. But that's what happened when the space the museum helped them find — a former soap factory — turned out to have a basement still covered in lard.

"We had to get this space ready, but we didn't know what to expect," said Meghan Sovell, an original WACTAC member. "We thought all we'd have to do was go in and hang the art, but instead we were up to our necks in soap."

Hot Art Injection (Hold Still), 1997. Teen art show at the Soap Factory.

The teens not only met the challenge of cleaning out the soap factory, they put in 12-hour days sifting through more than 1,000 paintings, photographs, sculpture and writing submitted by area teenagers to chose 100 pieces for the show. Working within their budget, they then planned and produced publicity and selected live talent for the opening.

The first biennial Hot Art Injection-Hold Still (the name is meant to convey that people should fill their life with art: not drugs) drew nearly a thousand supporters to its opening in 1997. Audiences have continued to flock to subsequent exhibitions, Hot Art Injection-May Cause Side Effects in 1999 and Hot Art Injection-III in 2001.

According to former WACTAC member Danny Brink-Washington, the shows allow teens to "make art for the community, not just the art community."

"At our weekly WACTAC meetings, we were constantly discussing what the Walker saw as art versus what we view as art," he said. "Hot Art Injection draws in everybody from all over the place and showcases our diverse artistic interests."

The teens' ability to pull it all together is a testament to their energy and drive as well as to the Walker's commitment to working with and for the teens.

"As we approached this new audience, we learned we had to listen very carefully to what their concerns are and learn from them at the same time as we help give them direction," said Kathy Halbreich, Walker Art Center director.