Campaign for Change

Campaign for Change Exhibition

The weekend before Thanksgiving we held an opening for our Campaign for Change Exhibition at the McElderry Park Community Resource Center. We put up photos and posters, along with a timeline that showed some of the behind-the-scenes process that went into the project. Over the course of the afternoon, a number of community members came in to check out the exhibit. They were really impressed with the photographic and design skills that the youth displayed in their artwork. We had some interesting and productive conversations about the issues raised by the posters, especially around the issue of vacant houses. 

The week after Thanksgiving, we took the Jr. Viewfinders to go see the exhibit since most of them hadn't made it our the opening. They were excited and proud to see their artwork up on the wall and we had some discussions reflecting on the project. When we returned to MICA PLACE, we did a group drawing project that focused on reflecting more on Campaign for Change. We talked about what parts of the project they liked, what they didn't like, what they thought went well, and what some challenges were. We also reflected on what we learned about the community issues that we'd focused on. It was a productive exercise, and we finished off the session with some cupcakes to celebrate the youth's hard work and wonderful art!


Portraits | Exploring Home

With the Jr. Viewfinders this week, we decided to go back to photography. We had some new students join our program and the first thing they wanted to do was take photos. So, Shan Wallace, an incredible Baltimore photographer and a teacher at Viewfinders, led a workshop on how to take portraits. A lot of Shan's own work is talking to people in Baltimore and taking their portrait, so we modeled the lesson plan off that. After the workshop, we went out in small groups into the neighborhood. The Jr. Viewfinders took a ton of outstanding photos of people, who were willing to give some time to talk and have their photo taken. We not only got great photos, but also had lots of fascinating conversations. Then, Shan and the other instructors offered feedback to the youth about their photos. You can see some of the work from this day below. 

Meanwhile, the Sr. Viewfinders have been steadily working away on Eastside Stories III. They've been checking our cameras out and going all around Baltimore, taking photos. This week, they brought in their cameras and loaded them onto our computers. As a group, we looked through their photos, picking favorites and offering feedback. So far, the photos were looking awesome! Then, as a group, we started to dig into the concept of home. Guided by a bell hooks article, we discussed the different meaning and contexts of home: physical, spiritual, emotional, familial, and more. Each Sr. Viewfinder came up with their own definition of home and shared it with the group.


Going Door to Door

This week the Jr. Viewfinders went out into the community. With the posters that they designed in hand, they went door to door in small groups to hand out their posters and tell people about this project. We prepped a short script with the youth, so that they could have something to go off if they got nervous. We also handed out flyer invitations to our upcoming Campaign for Change Exhibit at the McElderry Park Community Resource Center. We asked the community members that we talked to if they would hang the posters in their windows, so that others in the community could see and learn about our project.

Overall, the door knocking went incredibly well! Lots of community members answered, listened to the youth as they shared information about our project, and wanted a poster. Many of them thought it was a great project and were happy to be learning about it and interacting with the youth. There were really valuable and insightful conversations had about the issues raised by the posters and how they could be addressed. Sometimes the conversations went even beyond the issues we'd focused on, as community members offered their thoughts on how important youth voices and perspectives are. Lots of people expressed interest in attending our upcoming exhibition, as well! Below are some photos of the community members we interacted with. 

Designing Posters

Now that we had interviews, portraits, and photos of the issues, the Jr. Viewfinders put it all together to design their own posters. Using the graphic design knowledge that they gained during September, the Jr. Viewfinders used Canva, a website that simplifies graphic design, to create a couple different posters each. They used quotes from the interviews they'd conducted. They used cutouts of portraits and placed them on background photos that they'd taken. They played around with the text by adjusting font, color, size, and other settings. They experimented with framing and composition. We encouraged them to do multiple designs, so that they could really see the different effects of just the smallest of design choices.

Then, we all looked at the different posters as a group and discussed them. We offered feedback and constructive criticism to each youth participant. After that, they went back and made some revisions. Each youth participant ended up with at least two poster designs they were happy with. Then, we sent some to print so that next week we could begin the next phase of the project: handing the posters out!

Here are just a few examples of the posters they made.

More Interviews | Beginning of Eastside Stories III

After our experience with interviews last week, we decided it would be best to go out again and get some more interviews. We had two very interesting interviews at the Tench Tilghman Playground. First, we talked to Ms. Eunice, who no longer lived in the area, but grew up here. She felt that the neighborhood had started to improve lately, that they were really cleaning it up. She thought a lot of the vacant housing problems tied back to negligent landlords, who never did anything to fix up the houses they owned. Then, we talked to Niles Ringold, a lifelong resident of the neighborhood, who runs a small bakery business now. He felt that the city and politicians needed to do a better job of investing in communities in Baltimore. He wanted the young people growing up in the neighborhood to have more opportunities, to be able to get a good education, and to have good-paying jobs. Two portraits of them are at the bottom of this post.

Meanwhile, the Sr. Viewfinders started their work on a long-term project. Eastside Stories III is a project that will culminate in the publication of a magazine of the Sr. Viewfinders' photos, writings, graphic art, and interviews. Throughout the year, they will be focusing on the theme of home  and what it means to the people of East Baltimore. They'll talk to their fellow students, people who are new to East Baltimore, lifelong residents, and many others to create a picture of the many meanings that home holds. We'll be sure to keep you updated as this project develops.


On The Street Interviews

This week, the Jr. Viewfinders started a new phase of the Campaign for Change project by going out and conducting interviews with neighbors and community members. In order to get them ready for that, we did a workshop of interviewing. We went over the difference between open-ended questions and close-ended questions and how we want to ask questions that elicit interesting, substantial responses from our interviewees, as opposed to short, one or two word answers. We talked about follow-up questions and how important it is to listen to the responses of the person you're talking to. Then, we split into groups and did some practice interviews. Luckily, we had a community member who happened to be in the building, and she offered to help the youth do a practice interview.

Each group picked an issue to focus on. One group continued to explore the impact of vacant housing; another asked about the need for a recreation center in the neighborhood, while the last group dug into how sharing good news can help improve community morale. The groups then set out with their questions and conducted a number of interviews with community member, who were willing to lend their time. There were definitely some nerves with approaching and talking to strangers, so the youth didn't always do a great job of listening. However, once they got some experience doing the interviews, they really improved with their listening and improvising. Overall, they all gathered some really interesting stories and perspectives. And, they took some wonderful portraits and photos of the process. Be sure to check those out below. 



Out Taking Photos

During this first week of October, the Jr. Viewfinders turned their attention to our Campaign for Change project. The Campaign for Change project is made up of a few core elements: photography, interviewing, community engagement, and graphic design. This week, we focused on the photography portion of the project. We started by going over some photography basics. Most of the youth in Jr. Viewfinders had some experience with point and shoot cameras, but this year we wanted them to learn how to operate a DSLR camera. Moreover, we wanted them to learn how to adjust settings like white balance, ISO, shutter speed, and aperture, so we provided them with some useful handouts and let them play around with the settings to learn. 

Once they got the hang of the cameras, we went out into the neighborhood to take some photos. The goal was to take photos that fit into the themes and issues that we'd decided to focus on for the project. One of those themes was vacant housing. So, we found a few blocks that had a lot of vacant homes and the youth took a bunch of photos. They played with the settings to adjust the lighting and they experimented with framing and composition. Ultimately, some of their photos ended up being used in our poster designs later on in the project. The Sr. Viewfinders joined us later on in the afternoon and took some great photos themselves. Check out a few really good ones below.

First Month Catch-Up

We had an exciting and invigorating first month of after school programming at Baltimore United Viewfinders! Fresh off a summer break, our Junior Viewfinders program for elementary and middle school students jumped right into our Campaign for Change project, which you'll be hearing a lot more about in the coming weeks. We started the project by exploring a list of issues facing the McElderry Park neighborhood (which was compiled by the McElderry Park Community Association) and discussing which issues resonated with the youth. Then, the youth voted on which issues they wanted to focus on for our Campaign for Change project. Here are the issues we decided to focus on: vacant houses, the need for a recreation center for youth, and the importance of sharing good news about the neighborhood. 

Next up, we dove straight into the poster and graphic design parts of Campaign for Change project. The Jr. Viewfinders used the templates from two famous posters, Uncle Sam's I Want You and Rosie the Riveter's We Can Do It, to make their own versions. They learned how to take portraits of each other, how to photoshop them onto the templates, and how to come up with a catchy slogan that would resonate with their audience. These skills are definitely going to come in handy when the youth make community-focused posters in a few weeks. The results were awesome! Check a few out below. 

Meanwhile, our Senior Viewfinders program for high school students also got off to a great start. A lot of our high school students have been in the program for many years and have incredible skills already. So, they dug into the nitty gritty of graphic design. They learned technical skills and tips about font families, color palettes, and composition--and they went further. They delved into examples of how graphic design was used in social movements throughout history. They asked: How can we capture the energy and imagery of social movements and cultural moments of past and bring them to current problems? 

Well, that's where we're at now. Be sure to check back each week to stay up to date with our projects!