June 2017

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.