By Madison Kim, Community Engaged Fellow
The North Denver Photovoice Project spotlighted how young residents of Elyria, Swansea, and other neighborhoods of North Denver are effected by redevelopment projects in the area. Teenage artists spent eight weeks documenting their lives in North Denver. As a culmination to the project, family, friends, and community members gathered at the Growhaus to see the summer 2018 Photovoice Exhibit and speak with the artists. Artists had a chance to show off all of the hard work that they had put in over the past 2 months which highlights changes in their community that both excite and worry them.
The exhibit, along with eight workshops leading up to it, focused on working with and guiding teens through documenting their lives in North Denver. Everyone who has spent a summer in Colorado can relate to the extra traffic, noise, and detours that come with construction. For the artists, it was obvious how this construction and development is affecting their daily lives.
Leading up to the exhibit, workshops engaged the artists in discussion, mapping activities, and writing exercises that centered on the complexities of community development and how they could use their own voices to shape what was happening in the community. Armed with cameras, the participants used photography to capture what they saw in their community. Their pictures underscored not just the construction taking place in the area, but the importance of community spaces and environmental issues as well.
As a Community Engaged Fellow with the Center for Community Engagement to advance Scholarship and Learning (CCESL), I had the opportunity to help facilitate the weekly workshops leading up to the exhibit. Engaging with the 28 artists at the weekly workshops gave me the opportunity to see Denver from 28 unique perspectives. Through their photographs and discussion, artists highlighted different aspects of the city that we all call home in ways that I had not thought of before. As soon as they were handed cameras, most of the artists immediately had places in mind that they wanted to document. It was clear that they felt a connection to their community and demonstrated the kind of expertise of their neighbor that only a resident could offer.
It was amazing to see how photography created a space that everyone could share regardless of language or age or job. The artists were already intuitively familiar with the power of photography to tell a story in the age of social media, and I thought this project pushed them to further explore the connection between a camera and youth voice. I am hopeful that they will continue to use photography to tell important stories and show us how the world looks through their own lens.