“Each image tells a story, but the [Art for Life Community Connection] project is most powerful when savored through the wide lens of love,” states the exhibit’s program.
And love went into creating Morgan County School System’s alternative school’s latest art exhibit that now graces the outside of the school’s building. Community Connection is a public art project created as part of Art for Life, a program operated and funded through the Madison Artist Guild.
“With the Crossroads students we are always trying to look for art projects that are easily accessible, that don’t require a bunch of materials or special things for them to do,” said Art for Life teacher Elizabeth Collins. “So everybody’s go a cell phone and a lot of the cameras on phones are pretty good now so we decided to start talking to them about some photography.”
Collins teaches the class alongside Chuck Hanes and Angelina Bellebuono. The three began meeting with the students at Crossroads in October. The Art for Life class is taught two days a week and the teachers chose to focus on photography one class a week and work on another art proje the other day.
Collins, Hanes and Bellebuono taught the student the basic principals of photography including composition and lighting. During several of the classes, Collins said they would go on walks in the park next to the school and take pictures, which provided the instructors opportunities to teach the students as they worked.
The students were then challenged to take photographs on their own time centered on the theme of community, and what community means to them. Collins said the students really got into the photography project.
“They liked different things,” Collins said. “Some kids were drawn to nature and outdoors, some kids were more drawn to people and animals. We tried to work with them about trying to change their perspective, not just take a snapshot of something but do something to make the photograph more interesting.”
In the past, The Art for Life program at Crossroad has been focused on doing some type of public art project that was donated to one of the local non-profits.
“This one was a way we could do an exhibit, beautify their building, but also give them a large scale project that the public could see,” Collins said. “Its very accessible to see, you don’t even have to get out of your car to see it.”
However, the students didn’t just take the photographs in the exhibit, they also installed it. Collins said they found a great community partner in Metro Copier Services who printed the large-scale photographs. Employees of Metro Copier even attended the exhibit reception alongside other community members, school system leaders and program funders.
During the reception participating students were able to share their favorite photographs and share a little bit about what their photos meant to them.
The Community Connection photography exhibit is designed as a temporary exhibit that will eventually deteriorate and the students will be involved in taking down the exhibit. As the project evolved and changed the teaching team decided that photography is something they will be adding to the program’s curriculum. Each semester students will take new photographs and change the exhibit out.
“As we went through it, our teaching team, with Chuck and Angelina and I, we’re very good at being fluid and spontaneous because this group of kids is also fluid and spontaneous,” Collins said. “We don’t exactly know what to expect from time to time but this project was very successful. The kids enjoyed it, we enjoyed it and we were able to pull it off. We learned a lot, make some mistakes, especially with the installation, but overall I definitely think the success of the exhibit, how good it looks and the kids were so proud of it.”
The Community Connection exhibit can be seen at Morgan County Crossroads School, 1551 Bethany Road, Madison.
“I loved this project and was so deeply inspired by how the students, staff and community came together to bring it to fruition,” Bellebuono said.