LTP in City Paper today!

Posted on Thu, Jun. 30, 2011

Full Exposure

“Seeing Through Young Eyes” at the Galleries at Moore

by John Vettese / City Paper

The Galleries at Moore are virtually vacant this early on a weekday morning, but the room feels alive with activity. The scores of photos on the walls are surrounded by writing — some framed with a neatly typed page of poetry or prose, some marked up feverishly on the images themselves.

Along one wall, there’s a series of collages with snapshots inset, bursting with bright color. In a corner: black-and-white images of Philadelphia middle school students wearing papier-mâché masks.

On view through Sept. 10, “Seeing Through Young Eyes” showcases the pilot year of Moore’s outreach program, Literacy Through Photography: The Philadelphia Project. A local offshoot of the national LTP initiative founded by artist Wendy Ewald, the program paired six city classrooms with local artists, as well as art education students from Moore.

The goal was getting students to explore themes of identity, family and community while nurturing self-expression. But even though the participating schools are in very different sections of the city, the results aren’t necessarily distinguishable from neighborhood to neighborhood. Photos snapped in Olney could have easily been taken in Overbrook; living rooms in Kensington aren’t dissimilar from those in Bustleton. Community here feels fluid, and perhaps that’s the point, but that doesn’t necessarily reflect the reality on the ground.

This is especially true of much-maligned Kensington, so it’s appropriate that the images from fifth- and sixth-graders at William Cramp Elementary do the strongest job of crafting that distinct sense of place. They draw out their neighborhood as a home to struggle and hardship, but also warmth and compassion. Photos from Cramp are paired with essays; one student describes his home as “not a good place to be.” Another, titled Little Kids in Kensington, talks of gun violence, while the image shows a kindergartner taking aim with a plastic toy gun.

These students worry for their neighborhood, but also want to make a positive impact. One snapshot looks at a baby-faced pit bull, its head cocked curiously to the side — it’s a rescue dog, and the essay outlines utter devotion to the docile, somewhat frightened animal. Another image is visually urgent — a blurred commotion from TV news that might be a crime scene, a fire or something else altogether — but its text focuses on positive “Save the People” sentiments. Many pictures are warm shots of friends and relatives.

Images from the other schools are successful at crafting strong senses of individual identity. Students dress up like graphic novel heroes and villains, or pose with bass guitars and skateboards; one student at Nueva Esperanza Charter writes a poem about how life is like skateboarding: “it goes by fast, it grinds and flips, it makes twists and turns and there are accidents.”

C.C.A. Baldi Middle Schoolers mixed their photos into cut-and-paste collages; personalities are evident in the choice of words and letters they snipped from magazine pages. Grover Washington Jr. Middle Schoolers were asked to imagine their lives in 10 years. One aspirant actor photographed a movie poster; one photographed a collage of news stories about President Obama; one posed in a too-big-for-him uniform and wrote, “I’m 23 and a Marine.”

The most fascinating exploration of self in “Seeing Through Young Eyes” comes from a project that reduces “self” to its barest essentials. Eighth-graders at Dimner Beeber are the ones wearing those papier-mâché masks. Actually, they’re creating them, lying in repose, waiting for the plaster to dry. The photos are shot close and the masks smooth out most facial features. Individuality comes from the eyes, the contours, the crease of the lips — and the way the students respond to seeing their minimized faces. They can be playful, inspiring, vulnerable and insecure. All are excited to discover and articulate who they are.

“Seeing Through Young Eyes,” through Sept. 10, Galleries at Moore, 20th Street and Ben Franklin Parkway, 215-965-4027,


12 days and counting!

We’re counting down…only 12 DAYS until the inaugural exhibition of Literacy Through Photography at Moore opens to the public!

We are busy printing, cutting, framing and proofing all of the final works by students for the exhibition and publication. 180 frames….that’s A LOT of framing to do over the next week!

I have to admit, it has been difficult not to share some of the final works that will be on view during our exhibition. I have decided to share ONE example from each of our participating schools. It is not only exciting, but refreshing and interesting to see how each team of teachers approached working, for the first time, with the Literacy Through Photography teaching tools in their classrooms.

Katherine Pena, Nueva Esperanza Academy Charter High School

Kara, Dimner Beeber Middle School

Ashley Altiery, William Cramp Elementary School

Joshua Gonzalez, Grover Washington Jr. Middle School

Jordan Dunn, CCA Baldi Middle School

Printing Printing Printing

The last two weeks I have been traveling around the city, gathering our students’ photographs for formatting and printing. Needless to say the craziness is just beginning as we prepare final works for the exhibition and publication!

Over the next few weeks as we are busy printing, our blog will showcase writing samples and photographs taken by participating students from different classrooms as a sneak peek at what you will see during the exhibition. Some of these images you will see were chosen by students to be part of the exhibition while others were simply one of many taken during the course of the project.

This week will feature images by students at Dimner Beeber Middle School, Grover Washington Jr. Middle School and William Cramp Elementary.

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Snow Day!

Winter isn’t quite over yet, so instead of visiting  C.C.A Baldi and Grover Washington Jr Middle Schools today with ArtsRising, the kids are off enjoying another snow day!

While I do not have photos to share today, I have heard some wonderful stories from our participating teachers about how things are going in their classrooms.

This Thursday I will be visiting Dimner Beeber Middle School in West Philadelphia where teachers John Pickersgill and Liz Van Allen have been working with their classes on an LTP project that merges the curriculum with “The Art of Growing Up” program at the Arts & Spirituality Center. Julia Katz-Terry is the educator, visual artist, and creator/director of “The Art of Growing Up” program who has been working in the classroom. The kids are incorporating mask-making with their writing and photography project to talk about issues and experiences that are at the same time personal and universal to kids as they “grow up.”

Dan Fitzsimmons, 6th grade teacher at William Cramp Elementary School, recently told me that, “the writing I have been getting from my students in the past few weeks has been nothing short of amazing.” I will be visiting their classroom to see for myself how the students are responding to the project and snap some photos to share, and Dan will be uploading writing samples from his students this week as well.

I will also be back at Grover Washington this Friday to see what Sandra Andino is working on next and stop by Celeste Rodriguez’s classroom to meet her students.

Snow day or not this week is all about LTP here at The Galleries; stay tuned for images, writing and video from my visits!

December 18, 2010 meeting

In mid-December, just before the holiday break, I held a meeting with the teachers and teaching artists participating in the inaugural year of LTP. While everyone had the opportunity to meet during the November workshops at Moore, this meeting gave us the opportunity to hear more in depth about each teaching artist and the organizations in Philadelphia where they are affiliated or contribute work. Below are photos taken during the afternoon meeting. Video clips of each teaching artist will be available on their individual pages shortly.

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