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Students Explore Self-Expression in Ohio Civil Rights Commission Youth Art Exhibition

Students Explore Self-Expression in Ohio Civil Rights Commission Youth Art Exhibition

One of the first things Enahjae Beasley learned through the Cleveland Print Room’s Project Snapshot program is that black and white film processing is much more challenging than simply selecting the grayscale filter on his cellphone.

“I had never learned how to use a camera. I take a lot of pictures on my phone, but that’s, like, easy. That’s what everyone does,” said Beasley, an 11th grade student at Lincoln-West School of Global Studies. “But to actually get a perfect picture or to print or develop it the right way, it is really humbling. I’ve messed up so many times in the darkroom, and I was so mad because I knew I took such great pictures and I messed up. But it just made me come back even harder and harder when I came back into the darkroom.”

For 16 weeks, Beasley and 21 other Project Snapshot participants learned how to process film and take photos using Pentax 35mm cameras in preparation to display their photography at the Ohio Civil Rights Commission Youth Art Exhibition. The exhibition, presented in partnership with the Ohio Arts Council (OAC) and the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, concluded with a reception in the Commission’s office in the Rhodes State Office Tower, where students’ work will be displayed for a year.

“The exhibition got its start thanks to an idea by one of the OAC’s board members, Juan Cespedes, who also serves on the Ohio Civil Rights Commission,” explained OAC Executive Director Donna S. Collins. “We wanted to find a collaborative way to use arts education to the benefit of students and the public, in line with both of our agencies’ missions. I am delighted at the result—a permanent display of student photography that honors civil rights, inspires creativity and learning for high schoolers, and beautifies and activates a space in Columbus.” 

The current exhibition marks the second year that work by students from Project Snapshot and the Envison Project at Cincinnati’s Manifest Drawing Center is displayed in Columbus.

“I am in awe of your work here,” said Ohio Civil Rights Commission Director Michael Payton at the exhibition’s opening reception on June 1. “You took your time and your intention to do something that was worthy, and you should be very, very proud. For the next 365 days, everyone who crosses this threshold will see this. This doesn’t happen without dedication and commitment to excellence.”

Both programs provide students with the materials and instruction to gain photography skills. This year at Manifest, seven Southwest Ohio students worked with Michael Wilson, a Cincinnati native and a resident instructor at the center.

At the reception, Wilson echoed Beasley’s statement about darkroom development.

“I think analog in the darkroom is sort of a good metaphor for how a thing so maddeningly frustrating can still manage to be worthwhile,” he said. “Maybe that is a good metaphor for getting along with people and being a human being. It’s been a good experience.”

In Cleveland, Hadley Conner, a photographer and teacher, worked to acquaint Project Snapshot students with the tools of the trade, a process that she found extremely rewarding.

“It’s been fantastic working with our students,” she said. “These kids are great. They loved it. And I was very excited to see the transformation in how much they learned and how hungry they were for it.”

Laniecia Owens-Palmer, a recent graduate of the Cleveland School of the Arts, said she is grateful for the Project Snapshot program because it introduced her to other students who share similar interests.

“Getting to be a part of a program with other students and making new friends who have the same love of art that I do … without that, you have friends who are doing hair or want to go into computer arts, but they don’t have that same love that you do,” she said. “You can’t really talk to them about a picture or try to explain to them, you know, about f-stops and aperture. Making friends here, to have that with them and to go to art museums and actually speak with them about photos, is great.”

Owens-Palmer said her experience with the program has inspired her future career goals.

“I want to have my own business. I know what my intentions are with other students who are like me, who live in central Cleveland and don’t have access to darkrooms and computers and cameras and stuff like that,” she said. “I want a business kind of like the Print Room. It doesn’t even have to be photography. It can be anything, any visual, performing art. I just want students to know you can have fun with what you’re doing and also make a profit and make a living with what you want to do.”

For more information about the Cleveland Print Room or Manifest Drawing Center, visit clevelandprintroom.com and manifestgallery.org.


ABOUT THE OHIO ARTS COUNCIL
The Ohio Arts Council is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Connect with the OAC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website at oac.ohio.gov.

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Article by Amanda Etchison, Communications Strategist



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