Summer Camp Week 4

It's already the last week of camp! I realize I may have missed a few things that we've been up to. We're not just working on the newspaper project, we've also taken time to do some art making. We've generally kept that time loose and free, whether it's painting on a piece of plywood, making little figures out of clay, playing on photoshop, or learning some new video editing techniques. Here are some pics for you to check out what that work has looked like.

Now, this last week, we decided to do one more round of street interviews with a focus on the role that Monument Street, a hub of small businesses, plays in the community. So, most of the teams went out and followed the same model as they did with the street interviews last week. They found some people with lots of thoughts and some insightful ideas. Meanwhile, one group went to speak with a man, who helps run an organization of small business owners and merchants who work on Monument Street. You'll have to wait to hear more about that specific interview, but check out what people in the neighborhood think about Monument Street below.

The final project that we embarked was to make a movie about camp. We decided it'd be fun to make the movies in the style of a mockumentary, where the campers get interviewed about what they thought about camp and we cut to some re-enactments. So, the first day we assigned roles--lead camera operator, interviewer, main interview, reaction interview, actors, audio--and set about getting our footage. After we got the footage, we pieced together a storyboard to help guide us in the editing process. One group's movie take a rather bizarre turn, as a fictional character named Blind Billy became the protagonist. The next day, the groups split up the responsibilities with some working on a poster, some on gathering any more footage we needed, and some doing the editing. For the final day of camp, we played games, screened the movies, and had a super fun dance/karaoke party! One of the movies is still in the editing process, but you can check out the brilliant Blind Billy at Summer Camp below!

Summer Camp Week 3

This week we continued our work on the newspaper project. In order to get some practice doing interviews, the campers and Youth Workers went out in teams to do quick interview with people on the street. The teams came up with three basic questions each to ask their interviewees that generally dealt with what they liked about the neighborhood, what issues they thought the neighborhood face, and what changes they'd like to see. Then, they set out to get three or four interviews. Each team member had a role: interviewer, photographer, audio recorder. After getting their interviews, the teams returned and split up roles. Some looked for the best photos and turned them into grayscale, while others listened to the audio and wrote out the best quotes. Then, they came together to work on Canva, where they put the quote onto the photograph, which will ultimately go into a Meet Your Neighbors section in the newspaper. Here are some of the results.

Due to some erratic attendance with campers, it became difficult for each team to really work on their story. So, we switched it up a bit and went as a big group to Amazing Grace Church nearby to work on two stories. One story was about the church in general and that group interviewed Pastor Carol about the different programs and initiatives that the church runs. The other group interviewed Chef Daisy and Maxine, a volunteer, who both help run the food pantry and soup kitchen at the church. These interviews both turned out really well and the campers and Youth Workers were able to learn about both getting good interviews and how to use those interviews to develop and write an article. Here are some pictures from those interviews.

On Friday, we went on our other big field trip for the summer to Artscape, Baltimore's massive free arts festival. We went in the afternoon and due to very hot weather, the campers mostly chose to stay inside at Gamescape. Gamescape offered a whole variety of video games to play. There were some classics like Super Smash Bros along with new games that we're currently being developed like Rock, Paper, Scissors, which was a hit with the campers. There was also a virtual reality game that almost all our campers got a chance to play. Some campers did decide to go out with their groups and explore some more of Artscape. Overall, Artscape is an awesome and fun event, and the campers and Youth Workers both really enjoyed our field trip there. Here are some pics.

Summer Camp Week 2

We started week 2 of camp with a focus on the newspaper project. Each team picked a subject in the neighborhood to focus on, so we started developing stories about a yoga class, a program for preschoolers at the library, Safe Streets, and Video Lab here at Viewfinders. The teams developed a list of questions specifically tailored to what they'd already found out about the program through research. Then, we decided to do a practice interview for everyone to see. We arranged to interview a woman who works at the Men and Family Center nearby, and the campers and Youth Workers all went together to record, take photos, and learn about interviewing. Check out some photos from this experience.

On Wednesday, we went on our big field trip to the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, D.C. The museum was hugely informative and deeply moving to experience. The campers and Youth Workers were all super engaged with the various sections of the museum that they were able to see in our time there. There were fruitful conversations between the youth, and, overall, it seemed like everybody was thrilled to have the experience to see the museum. One of our campers, Jibril, saw an exhibit that was about his grandfather, who was a famous musician. It was great to see the personal connections to the museum that impacted the campers and Youth Workers. Check out some photos of us there.

The next day we split into groups and made short videos based on what stood out most to the campers at the museum. It was awesome to see the wide variety of subjects covered in those videos--ranging from a telling of Emmett Till's story to a fictionalized story about the obstacles a young woman faces in balancing her dream of becoming a professional basketball player and dealing with school and family life. Overall, I think it was the best place we could have gone for a field this summer. You can see some of the videos below.  

Summer Camp Prep + Week 1

It's summer camp time here at Viewfinders! We'll be giving you updates about what's going on each week here at our summer camp. We wanted to start by telling you about the role that Youth Works plays in our summer camp. Youth Works is a summertime employment program for Baltimore youth, who are at least 14 years old. This year, we have 7 Youth Workers, who will be serving as camp counselors for us. Our Youth Workers came a week before summer camp officially started in order to help prep and plan.

Youth Works also has certain requirements of its own that primarily focus on teaching the high schoolers about building a resume, job readiness skills, and money management. So, we spent segments of time during our prep work going over those skills through videos, presentations, worksheets, and group activities. While it wasn't always the most enthralling part of the day for the Youth Workers, they nonetheless gleaned some important info and tips. 

For our summer camp, we focused on prepping the Youth Workers to be leaders. Playing games and icebreakers is a huge part of summer camp, so we practiced a bunch of different icebreakers and had the Youth Workers practice leading them. This proved helpful during camp. We also got started on the community newspaper project, which will be the main focus of camp. The Youth Workers learned the basics of reporting and writing a story, how to track bias in stories, and some photography basics. We ended the week by having the Youth Workers do short photo essays on the neighborhood and create collages that represented themselves, which is the first art activity we did with the campers.

Speaking of the campers, we started summer camp the first week of July! The first day of camp we focused on introductions, playing icebreakers, and working on collages about ourselves. It was a very successful first day with connections starting to form and a positive atmosphere. The next day we split into smaller teams, which would stick for the rest of camp. Each team came up with a name, logo, and cheer, as a way to start building unity as a team. At the end of the day, each team presented their logo and cheer; we had the Bmore Draggers, Leagues United, Pizza Skaterz, and Da M.O.B. On Friday, we introduced the community newspaper project to the youth in the morning and did a photo walk. Then, we had a free, fun afternoon at a local park in the afternoon. Overall, it was a fun and promising start to what will surely be a great month of camp! Check out some photos the campers took below. 



Becoming Murals

There's one part of Becoming that we haven't really touched on yet: murals. Kristen Brown, one of our teachers, developed and led the curriculum for Becoming during both its parts. The most obvious and direct connective tissue between part one and part two of Becoming is that the hero collages created during part one are being turned into murals in part two. At the end of 2016, Kristen secured funding to put up several of these murals in the McElderry Park and Middle East area, near where most of our youth live. With funding in hand, Kristen went out to local businesses, organizations, and residents to see who would be interested in having one of the murals on their buildings or homes. And she found some takers! 

Next, she had to figure out a number of logistical issues ranging from determining best locations to figuring out the best materials for the murals to dealing with copyright issues related to images of people like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jackie Robinson. With all the details settled, Kristen started working on the first mural in May. She employed a unique method to put up the morals. Since the collages were based on photographs, she didn't want to simply paint the murals. So, she had the collages printed on polytab, a cloth-like paper that adheres to walls and can be as durable as painted murals. Stay tuned for a how-to video on using polytab for murals, which is in production now.

Over the course of the summer, Kristen put up four murals with the help of Ronald, a super talented local artist. It's been especially exciting when the Jr. Viewfinders have seen the murals of themselves; they're pretty thrilled to have their faces and collages in the neighborhood. There are still more murals to come. And, ultimately, the murals part of the project will culminate in a parade, walking tour, and celebration of the murals with performances by the Jr. Viewfinders this fall! Check out some pictures of these amazing murals below.

Community Art Collaborative Festival

Baltimore Viewfinders is part of the Community Art Collaborative (CAC), a partnership between AmeriCorps, MICA, and non-profit arts education organizations all around Baltimore. Each year, all those arts education organizations that are part of CAC come together to curate a show that highlights all the amazing artwork done over the school year by youth from all around Baltimore city.

This year, the exhibition and festival occurred on MICA's main campus in the Pinkard Gallery in late May. For the Viewfinders, we decided to highlight our two most recent projects: Becoming and Eastside Stories III. For Becoming, we printed the magazine covers that youth had created for their superhero personas on poster-sized paper. We also put up some of capes, masks, and shields that they designed. Finally, we had the Becoming wrap up video playing on a computer, so that attendees could see all the awesome video and photo work that went into the project. For Eastside Stories III, we had a copy of the publication that was available for people peruse and look through, along with two photo prints that had previously been in our Finding Home exhibition. Oh, and we also put up the emoji cyanotype prints in a string. Check out this photo of our section of the exhibition!

Then, on Thursday, May 21st, the CAC Festival happened. Youth from all the different organizations around the city came to see the exhibition. There were games, a photo booth, face painting, pizza, and a drum line performance. We took a bunch of the Jr. Viewfinders over to MICA's main campus for the event and they had an awesome time. First, they went straight to our section of the exhibition, checked out their stuff on the wall, and watched the video. Then, they looked around at everyone else's artwork, before diving into the games, food, and face paint. It was an awesome event that highlighted all the amazing arts education work being done in Baltimore every day! Check out the Jr. Viewfinders enjoying themselves at the CAC Festival!

Emoji Project

Having completed Becoming and with only about a month left of after school programming, we decided to work on a short project that we knew the Junior Viewfinders would really enjoy. So, we picked a theme that we were certain they liked: emojis. The Jr. Viewfinders are constantly using emojis on Snapchat and Instagram, and they were all a little obsessed when we brought in emoji stickers for them earlier in the year. 

The first part of the project involved digging into what the emojis really were. We looked at a bunch of emojis and we asked how you would describe that in just a few words. This ended up being a little more interesting than we'd expected, as it proved pretty challenging to really capture some of the emoji faces. Then, each youth picked three or four of their favorite emojis, ones that they would try to replicate. We also made some props so that certain emojis like the heart eyes, the crying with a tear drop, and the devil with horns ones could also be replicated. Next, each youth imitated a few emoji faces and we took up close portraits of them. Here are some great ones! Some of them are pretty obvious, but others might be a little trickier to figure out.

The second part involved using Photoshop and Canva to create fake text messages conversations. The youth used skills they'd acquired earlier in the year to cut out just their faces from their portrait so that it truly resembled an emoji. Then, using some templates we'd set up for them, they created little fake conversations, using their own faces as the emojis! Check it out. 

For the final part of the project, we also returned to an activity we'd done earlier in the year: cyanotype. Last time we tried cyanotype, it was winter and the sun wasn't strong enough to make the process work. But now that we were on the verge of summer, we decided to try it again with their emoji portraits. It worked much better this time! The prints weren't perfect, but you could really see their portraits. However, we put them up in an exhibition, and after a few weeks they'd almost completely faded...which isn't supposed to happen. We think that may be because we didn't rinse of the ink after the prints were finished being exposed, so it continued to expose. Remember to rinse off the ink with water after the prints dry if you ever try this activity in the future!

Learn More About Becoming

Before we go on, I just want to take a moment to share two things from the Becoming project.

First, you can use this curriculum for Part Two of Becoming that this Junior Viewfinders' project. It's available for free.

Second, check out the video below, which puts together all the video work we did, along with some behind the scenes interviews of how we approached this project.

Eastside Stories III Release Celebration

It's here! Eastside Stories III is officially out and available for purchase. To celebrate the incredible work done by our Senior Viewfinders, we held a release celebration that also served as the opening of the second annual OVA Con, a weekend long conference of workshops and performances put on by OVA East and the Baltimore United Viewfinders Collective. 

Beyond releasing Eastside Stories III, this celebration also served as a larger recognition of the Senior Viewfinders. Many of them were part of the original group of youth who created the Baltimore Viewfinders program several years ago. They're quite literally the reason that this program exists. Many of them are also graduating from high school this year, so we wanted to recognize them for that accomplishment, as well. Eastside Stories III served as a final project that demonstrated just how skilled the Senior Viewfinders have become with graphic design, photography, and storytelling.

At the release celebration, several Senior Viewfinders spoke about the impact that Baltimore Viewfinders had on them. They'd learned a lot here, but more than anything, they were grateful for the community of friends and mentors that they'd built. Again and again, they returned to the fact that what makes Baltimore Viewfinders so special is the people who make it happen and the relationships that tie us together.

If you're interested in acquiring an edition of Eastside Stories III, please contact and we'll get you one. 

Cover Image of  Eastside Stories III

Cover Image of Eastside Stories III

Collaboration with MICA Students, Part 2

The MICA students returned this week to finish up the video project. One of the challenges that arose with this project was our sometimes erratic attendance. This week we both had some new youth who missed the first part, and some youth who did the first part but didn't show up this week. So, we had to improvise a bit with some MICA students working with youth on just taking photos without the intention of making a movie. Meanwhile, the youth who were there for both sessions worked away on their videos. 

We used both Adobe Spark and Premiere to make the movies, based on the youth and the MICA students level of experience with video editing. This part of the project worked really well because it's often difficult to edit with groups of kids--there's only so much each person can do. So, the fact that we had one or two college students working with just one youth really helped facilitate learning how to better edit videos. Some of the MICA students were super impressed by the video editing skills that the youth already had. Messiah, a 10-year-old in our program, already had more Premiere skills than Evan, the college student he worked with! By the end of the session, we had some truly great movies! Overall, the collaboration with MICA students was a total success and proved to be a great way to close out our Becoming project. Check out two examples of the movies we produced below.