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Collage of student documentary photography work

Bellaire High School Taps Highly Published Photojournalist for OAC-supported Artist Residency

A multi-year collaboration between Bellaire High School in Belmont County and upper Ohio Valley-based photojournalist Rebecca Kiger is helping students learn about photography and engage in several documentary-style projects.  

Kiger—whose photo credits include Time magazine, the New York Times, and the Washington Post—has led and mentored students in several educational projects, each documenting their lives and experiences in rural Appalachia. The in-school artist residency is supported through the Ohio Arts Council’s TeachArtsOhio grant program, which helps bring schools and organizations together with teaching artists for high-quality arts learning experiences. 

Over the past two years of the residency, students have individually examined topics ranging from mental health and responses to COVID-19 to social and economic struggles.  

They’ve also worked together on larger projects. One comprehensive project brought the students’ photographs and written reflections together in a “zine”—a self-published, small-circulation work of original images and text—to engage the wider community. Another project they participated in was “Unfinished.” Part of a global social experiment, the project explored a variety of topics, including the stigma of discussing mental health. 

While working with Kiger, the students also had the opportunity to hear from prominent professionals in the field, meeting virtually with many renowned photographers and journalists—including Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Judy Walgren. 

The collaboration continues this academic year, again supported by a TeachArtsOhio grant. Their current project is focused on documenting, through photography and reporting, environmental work being done in their corner of Appalachia. Throughout the 2022-2023 school year, students are having discussions with academics, scientists, journalists, advocates, and community members. They’re also photographing “hometown heroes” who are active in the region’s efforts to better preserve and protect the local natural environment. 

Once complete, the student’s projects will become part of a new nonprofit center dedicated to supporting and creating a visual archive of environmental work being done across the United States.  

Learn more about TeachArtsOhio, including contact information, upcoming deadlines, and application requirements.  


Article by Andrew Paa, Communications Strategist
Featured photo images provided by Bellaire High School. See more of the student's work on Instagram

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