Exhibit features Work by South Side Youth

Exhibit features Work by South Side Youth

‘No Pressing Rewind’ showcases images by boys from Journey to Manhood program

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Sharon Owens, the director of Southwest Community Center, admires a piece of artwork from the Photography and Literacy collaboration.

A group of middle schoolers attending a summer program at Southwest Community Center had the privilege of presenting their artwork at the Nancy Cantor Warehouse in Armory Square. On Oct. 2, “No Pressing Rewind” opened at the Link Gallery and showcased the culmination of four weeks’ worth of learning photography, writing and Photoshop techniques.

Over the summer, the boys in the Journey to Manhood program at Southwest Community Center worked with Syracuse University faculty to create pieces that represented their identities and communities. As part of SU’s Photography and Literacy (PAL) project, the goal was to enhance literacy using digital media to tell stories.

“We just wanted to show them something different, besides basketball, football, something that allows them to think outside the box,” said Halston Canty, the youth specialist for the Journey to Manhood group.

The boys were each given cameras and encouraged to capture whatever they felt illustrated their feelings. The works included self-portraits against a particular background or with transparent patterns. Each of the pieces also included writings that the boys composed, ranging from topics about their families, identities or hobbies.

Tayshawn, 13, had his artwork featured on the advertising for the event.

“We had to make a poem about ourselves,” he said. “Mine was about realizing that life is not a game. I love the program, I wish it continued.” Tayshawn also said he is interested in continuing with art and wants to get into clay and sculpting.

Professor Stephen Mahan taught the class at The Warehouse, which is a modification of the class he teaches at SU during the regular school year. Mahan values the program because it allows an alternative kind of learning outside of the classroom.

“When I was in school, I had a learning disability, so I had a really difficult time getting through school. And probably 90 percent of the kids I work with have a difficult time in school, and I know there’s another way for them to learn,” he said. “A lot of the kids in school are brilliant, but they’re told repeatedly they’re not. So I like to tell them they are.”

Kyree, 12, points out the details in his piece to Mary Lynn Mahan, professor Mahan’s wife.

Kyree, 12, points out the details in his piece to Mary Lynn Mahan, professor Mahan’s wife.

Mahan also makes a point to hold the classes at The Warehouse, and not at Southwest Community Center, to expose the kids to resources that SU offers.

“A lot of the kids from the inner city, a lot of the black kids are left at the margins and don’t have access, or feel as though they don’t have access to this place,” said Phil Haddix, co-facilitator for the PAL summer session. “We decided to bring them here to make this place accessible to them, make them feel welcome in it and make them see that they can do whatever they want in terms of being creative.”

One of the downsides to the summer program, according to Mahan and Haddix, is that many kids participated because they were staying with relatives in Syracuse for the summer, but missed the opening reception because they had returned home. For many, it was their first time working with photography or graphic design.

“I took a picture of our advertisement for Journey to Manhood and then blended it all together with four different backgrounds,” said 11-year-old Ukiah. “I never really expected it to come out this well. So for me this program was a fun experience.”

During the school year, Mahan teaches Literacy, Community and Media, where SU students work with youth in different Syracuse public schools or community centers like Southwest Community Center. The SU students use digital media, photography and writing to tell stories with the younger students. To Mahan, the most important part is that the kids feel proud of where they come from.

“Our thing here is that you come from something special,” he said. “Here’s the tools that are available to you to tell it.”

 

 

— Article and photos by Ashley McBride, The Stand Staff reporter