Curating a classroom

Classrooms can be beautiful.  The first time I realized this was when I visited my friend Drew Ward’s high school English classroom.  He calls it the “MOLA”—Museum of Language Arts.  His walls are black and covered in colorful empty frames.  At the beginning of the school year he challenges his students to write something worthy of hanging in the MOLA.

It made an impression on me, and I think it was in the back of my mind when I was recently working on a project in the Jaguar Den.  The Jaguar Den is a open, multi-use room that has been re-carpeted and painted, awaiting decoration.  Among other things, it will be a venue for indoor garden activities during our cold months (such as the vocabulary-building Garden Bingo we played on a rainy NEAT day.)

“Kids with Cameras” is a collaborative after school program involving the school garden. (You can read about it here.)  We enlarged and matted the kids’ best photos from our Volcan Mountain trip for a community reception.  After the photos were on display at the library for two weeks, the Character Council (charged with designing this new space) decided to have the framed prints hung in the Jaguar Den to create a “gallery feel.”  In this way, students’ work is exhibited, and the photos contribute to a clean and beautiful look we are going for in this room.

BEFORE

AFTER

Thank you to my artist friend Ann for arranging and hanging these!

Kids with Cameras: An exercise in place-making

This article will appear in next week’s “Julian News.”

“Kids with Cameras,” a 4-week after school course in photography, wrapped up on November 16th with a photo shoot on Volcan Mountain.  With an emphasis on art instruction, place-making, and relationship building, this project demonstrated the best of what community collaboration can look like, to the benefit of Julian and its kids.

The idea began with Jeff Holt.  A board member of the Volcan Mountain Foundation, Holt leads the Education Committee with a passion for getting kids up on our local mountain.  Also an accomplished photographer, Holt initiated a conversation with Tricia Elisara, Garden Club president at Julian Elementary, about running an after school enrichment program focused on photography.  Always looking for ways to grow the school gardens, Elisara fanned the flame by suggesting that before trekking to the mountain, the kids do three photography workshops on campus, putting in to immediate practice what they learn by taking photos in the school gardens.  After acquiring some technique and practicing at school, the students would then take a trip to Volcan Mountain to put it all together.  All that was needed, then, was a time to work with students and instructors willing to donate their time to teach the classes.  Both pieces quickly fell into place, and the concept roared into reality.

Enter Dana Pettersen, who organizes Club Live, an after school program on Fridays at Julian Junior High which promotes positive and healthy youth development.  She offered to run the course in conjunction with her program, attending to all of the details from advertising the class to collecting necessary paperwork.  Holt drew on his network of local photographers to recruit instructors.  Bill Bevill, a now retired photography teacher at Ramona High School, and Anne Garcia, a well-known Julian photographer, graciously signed up, along with Holt, to teach the course and ultimately accompany the children to Volcan for further hands-on instruction.  Bevill focused on the use of the camera, and Garcia worked with the children on composition.

In his opening lecture, Holt inspired the kids to use photography to create relationship with both people and place.  By being “site-specific,” the young photographers were challenged to go out and document “their” gardens at both Julian Elementary and Junior High, seeing them in fresh ways and capturing them at the current stage of development.  Likewise, the course culminated with young people going up on our own mountain to initiate or deepen their connection to the beautiful place where they live.

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On Thursday, December 1st at 4:00, we will be celebrating this project with an artist reception at the Julian Library.  All are invited.  After brief remarks from all of the project partners, we will be unveiling photos from each of the participating students.  The collection of prints will remain on display at the library in December. Reproductions of these selected works can also be ordered at the reception for a donation to the Volcan Mountain Foundation.

Additionally, photo cards, using the best images captured in the garden and on the mountain, will be on sale to benefit the ongoing work of the school gardens and the Volcan Mountain Foundation (for $2 each!) In this way, students who have benefited from the generous contributions of local artists and school staff have a chance to put their artwork to good use in supporting important local projects—from school gardens to a wilderness protection organization—that make Julian such a great place to live.  We hope to see you there!