Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Photos, Art, & Activism

I just stumbled upon this great initiative from Healthy Schools Campaign, 21st Century School Fund, and Critical Exposure called Through Your Lens: School Facilities Across America. It's amazing!!! They have students take photos of their falling apart school buildings. As you may our nation's schools are reaching 50 years of age on average and with looming  school staff cutbacks, suffering state budgets and a tradition of not investing in our nation's educational system, it isn't looking so good for healthy and safe places of learning.

Healthy Schools Campaign is a great organization based out of Chicago, IL that has helped mobilize parents and students around healthy food for a better education and coordinating an effort to pass green cleaning policies at a state level. IL was the second state to pass a green cleaning in schools policy. Speaking of green cleaning, I just wrote a blog over at Momsrising about it.

You can download a book of a collection of the photos from these students. When my sister and I traveled India we gave the kids we met during the week at this school disposable cameras and let them run around and take all the photos they wanted. It was so wonderful to watch! They took the best photos, nothing either one of us could have found or hoped to witness if we had taken the photos.

On page 43 of the Through Your Lens, it starts to talk about solutions. I really like this:
We must take collective action for eliminating substandard school buildings that are barriers to educational achievement, environmental sustainability, and vibrant communities. No single governmental agency can achieve this alone. Rather, we must create a new federal, state, and local partnership to ensure that all communities have sufficient resources to provide higher quality school buildings.
 I agree that we can not depend on the same system to get us out of this situation that got us into it. We need to mobilize, educate, and empower in order to develop a new paradigm. And we must start by asking; if not this, then what.  I don't think we can achieve all that we need through governmental policy after governmental policy, but by making a collective movement forward to making a healthier and safer community a priority.  We need to move away from corporate control and thinking that the government is going to solve everything. I'm not sure what that looks like, but we're pretty smart. I bet we can solve some of the problems we are all facing by working together and taking action.

If you know me, you know that I am one of those painter, photo taking, studied years and years in fine arts artist types. And that my ultimate goal in this little life I've got going is to make change through art, specifically by empowering children. I'm one of those that has kept every sketch book I've filled in my life and often (embarassingly so) look through them for further inspiration. So type of initiatives like Through Your Lens is particularly inspiring for me. I'm looking forward to volunteering at a local youth/arts community center in my next town (which should be shortly).

Another great program was just started by my friend Josef. He's amazing! He recently quit his job and started CHARTS (Columbia Heights Arts Foundation) He started something called a Salon Series where he hosts potlucks at his house on a regular basis and bring in guests from local non-profits to discuss important issues in his community. How brilliant is that? As you can tell I'm quite the fan of this charming boy. And sad that I'm no longer in the district to help out. If you don't have Facebook, that's where the link above goes, you can keep up with Josef via twitter. 

Here is what CHARTS is all about:
The Columbia Heights Arts Foundation is dedicated to promoting and preserving the rich and diverse arts/culture of Columbia Heights, while making it accessible to the community at-large.

To achieve this objective, CHARTS serves to unite the different communities that live in Columbia Heights through the medium of art -- by extending outreach to all corners of the neighborhood for constructing dialogue on the arts, cultivating talent through community-based art projects, and allowing outlets of expression that are universal in their audience.

Hope you're having a day full of sunshine!!!
Renee Claire

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