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A Piece of Me

Over the course of five weeks, nine youth collaborated on a photo mural encapsulating what home means to them. They learned about photographic composition and editing, as well as took a field trip to Board & Vellum Architecture and Design and met with local artists to further their teamwork and design skills. The resulting artwork, titled A Piece of Me, was installed in the Epstein Opportunity Center at Yesler Terrace in October and will travel to other locations both within Yesler and across the city throughout 2019.

The photo collage is composed of a central figure, made of color photographs, surrounded by black-and-white pictures. The figure’s face is a composite image which includes elements of all nine teens’ faces. The figure’s body is made up of the youths’ self-portraits, as well as photographs of their hands holding objects that symbolize home to them. The figure also has an anatomical heart, hand-drawn by some of the teens using red and blue markers on transparencies. Framing for this piece was generously provided by Gallery Frames.

Each teen wrote an artist statement answering the following questions: What does home mean to you? How do the photographs you’ve taken reflect your idea of home? Why did you choose the object you photographed, and how does it reflect home? The artist statements hang next to the piece, so that viewers can have a deeper understanding of the meaning behind the photo mural.

Ultimately, the teens were impressed with what they were able to accomplish together in only five weeks, and excited to see their artwork on display in different venues across the city. We will be sure to update the blog as the photo mural is reinstalled in new locations!

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Laying the Groundwork: Photography and the Artistic Process

For the first couple of weeks, the group worked on honing the skills needed to create their photo mural. First up was a crash course in photography with teaching artist Elena Chernock. The teens explored what makes a compelling photograph, and learned about different elements of composition such as the rule of thirds, leading lines, and points of view. Then they got behind the cameras themselves and experimented with the different techniques. Back in the computer lab, Elena provided the teens with an overview of Photoshop, and they played around with editing their photos.

The next step involved hearing from local artists about their work and artistic processes. Documentary filmmaker Jill Freidberg got the youth excited about using their photo mural as an opportunity to tell a story about their community. She walked them through her current venture, the Shelf Life Community Story Project, which aims to “amplify community voices, learn from neighborhood stories, and interrupt narratives of erasure in Seattle’s Central District.” The teens also had a chance to hear from DK Pan, 2011 Stranger Genius in Visual Art award winner, who had recently completed a one-year stretch as an Artist-in-Residence at Yesler Terrace. DK shared with the teens about his experience working and creating at Yesler, and inspired them to dig deeper when it came to conceptualizing their own project.

Drawing on all of this knowledge, the youth worked together to come up with a plan for their photo mural. Each teen was tasked with contributing four photographs to the project — a self-portrait, a group portrait, an object, and a location — that conveyed what home means to them. Check back to see their finished product!

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What Does Home Look Like in an Ever-Changing World?

As Seattle continues to grow and change, this question confronts us all. For the residents of Yesler Terrace, the rapid changes in their neighborhood make this question even more immediate. Yesler Terrace, a 30-acre site in the Central District, was developed by the Seattle Housing Authority in the 1940s as the nation’s first racially-integrated public housing development. In 2013, SHA began redeveloping Yesler Terrace in order to capitalize on its central location, access to public transportation, and beautiful views. All 561 original units are being replaced, and over 1,000 affordable housing units are being added, as well as new green spaces and a new streetcar line.

For this session of Design Your [Neighbor]hood, SAM has teamed up with Seattle Housing Authority and the Associated Recreation Council at Yesler Community Center. Over the next five weeks, teens will collaboratively conceptualize, create, and install a photo mural telling their stories about home, the neighborhood, their community, and change. The photo mural will be on display at Yesler Terrace before moving to other sites around the city, giving residents of other neighborhoods the opportunity to learn more about the Yesler community and the amazing teens who call it home.

 

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Grand Re-Opening of the Van Asselt Teen Room

That’s a wrap! Over the course of 22 meetings, 8 teens completely reenvisioned and redesigned the Teen Room at the Van Asselt Community Center. Taking into account community feedback, the youth cleaned, painted, and decorated the space to make it a warm and welcoming room where their peers can hang out, study, or watch the basketball games on the court below. They worked with carpenter Chris Landingin to repurpose the furniture already in the room for use as backless benches, coffee tables, and end tables. In the end, they were thrilled to see people in the space, actually using all of the features they had designed!

Working as a team, the teens took the room from this:

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To this:

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What’s the Difference Between a Self-Portrait and a Selfie?

As part of their photography unit, the teens also learned about portraiture. One Saturday, the group piled into the van and headed to the Northwest African American Museum. There, they took in the exhibition Everyday Black, which features contemporary portraits by photographers Jessica Rycheal and Zorn B. Taylor. Each teen picked one image in the show to present to their peers, focusing on the composition and what attracted them to the photograph. One teen observed, “I feel like he [the subject] is trying to see right through me,” while Kaidra remarked of the exhibition overall, “I like the messages they’re sending to my brain!”

Back at the center, the teens tried their hands at self-portraiture. One teen asked what the difference is between a self-portrait and a selfie. Based on what they had seen and learned at NAAM, the youth decided that a self-portrait is highly intentional, and focuses on self-representation. A self-portrait encourages the viewer to ask “who is this person, and what do they want me to know about them?” After everyone had a self-portrait they were satisfied with, the teens incorporated their photographs into the design of their own personal business cards. business cards

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Photographic Composition

On Wednesdays, the youth participated in a multi-week photography intensive. After looking at some professional photographers’ work, the teens learned about some principles of photographic composition, including the rule of thirds, leading lines, symmetry, frame within a frame, repetition, fill the frame, bird’s eye view and worm’s eye view. Once they were comfortable with these principles, they explored the community center to take photographs. They even completed a photo challenge where they captured an example of each principle of composition!

Kaidra’s example of bird’s eye view.
Kaidra posing on the playground
Christina from an interesting perspective
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Personal Style Mood Boards

The DYN teens were tasked with creating mood boards that encapsulated their own unique personal styles. Part of the challenge was to include at least three different color “formulas” from the color theory lesson, as well as different textures, patterns, words, and images that they found inspiring. Using a variety of materials, the teens whipped up some pretty impressive and aesthetically pleasing mood boards, which they then presented to their classmates.

 

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