Friday was our second to last day at CityArts, and strangely enough, it felt as though we had finally fallen into a rhythm. Even with the difficult driving it took to get through the St. Patrick’s day crowds we arrived on time and energized for the group of students. Our positive spirits and adaptable attitudes were clearly contagious and a quick game of “Wah” had the say off to a great start.
I initially took Community Lens because of the community involvement aspect associated with it. I knew almost nothing about photography coming in, and I am sure to this day that my skillset is not nearly close to the capabilities of many of my classmates, however, I wanted this unique experience and involvement with youth and to add another understanding of storytelling to my tool-belt. After years of being involved in service, I understand the reciprocal nature of community work. However, the spirit at CityArts amazed me. Although I am learning a lot from class, the drive, knowledge, energy, and capabilities of the Young Artists has allowed me to grow both in my photography skills and in my youth development abilities. Just this week my partner Maya showed me some amazing pictures of her own. We were able to critically analyze all of them and really get to know each other just through photography. I am beginning to better understand the power of storytelling through these interactions weekly, but this week really embodied that for me.
For the beginning activity, the Young Artists were asked to pick out one picture that they liked because of the appearance of the picture, and then one picture that they felt represented them or they saw themselves in. This sparked some deep conversation. Maya picked a picture of a mural because she liked the artwork and the aesthetics of the picture. For the one that represented her she chose one where only the shadows of two people were visible. When asked to explain why that one represented her, she stated that she’s “kind of a shadows person.” When I asked her later what that meant she said she is quieter than most and doesn’t like a whole lot of attention. The ability for them to pick the pictures and then verbalize why they chose them allowed for them to see themselves in their photography. Noah stated he liked one of his because there was a smiling man. The other students had their own reasons as well. Each Providence College student was able to adapt to the pictures each student had chosen to make the experience unique to them. This is one thing I love about having one Providence College student for each Young Artist. We are really afforded the opportunity to connect with them daily on a personal level, and to guide and support them individualistically.
When Maya said she saw herself in the shadows picture, we immediately went outside to make pictures with interesting shadows. The lesson planning team telling us to try to replicate the elements the Young Artists identified in their pictures as something they had liked really assisted us in our adventures. We found a second playground and Maya started taking photography risks, taking pictures through the holes of the playset and down the slide to look at the different shadows and perspectives. Through identifying herself and being able to see herself in a picture, she was abler to take risks. This exemplified the importance of empowerment and self-expression to young people. Oftentimes I feel as though young people are treated differently because they do not have the same attention span, poise, or experience as older people do, but that does not mean their voices should not be heard, celebrated, and appreciated. I think even as someone who is only twenty-two, it is very easy to forget the days when I was not taken so seriously because of my age. But, I get lost in my days and too often think my way is best in order to get something done, not looking around to hear the other voices. I think in a working world that is not uncommon. It reminded me to take a step back and to listen to all there is to listen to because of the value of every voice. Listening does not just have to be with our ears, but also with our eyes and through art. What happened at CityArts this week showed me the magic of storytelling as well as made me incredibly excited for our upcoming exhibition!
Maddie Boffi, Providence College Class of 2017, Public & Community Service Major, Sociology Major
Public & Digital Relations - Dee, Gretchen, Danny & Stephen