Located on Beacon Hill, in Seattle's South end, Cleveland High School sits majestically overlooking the industrial Georgetown neighborhood, now home to a vibrant arts scene. Here, for the past two months, in collaboration with Dana Johnson, an Americorps VISTA member, we have been instructing a group of six students in photography and storytelling. Conceived by Dana at the start of the school year, the Cleveland High School Photography Club offers a unique experience in an artistic medium otherwise unavailable from the school's curriculum. Slated to convert to a STEM school (an Option school dedicated to the study of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) in the coming school year, the students of Cleveland High face many academic challenges and the lack of arts-focused coursework.
Over the next 6 weeks, the students will continue to exlore their identity through a storytelling project aimed at producing an autobiography of each student's life. Coming from families as variable as single-parent households, or four generations of women living under the same roof, to Samoan, black, and Native American ethnicities, their stories promise to reveal a diversity of backgrounds unique to their community. From freshmen to seniors, they will undoubtedly encounter, for the first time, challenges and issues never before identified or addressed during their young lives.
A combination of faculty dedication, mainly from the club's advisor David Friedle, a small grant awarded to Dana Johnson to equip all the students with digital cameras, and hard work by the students has propelled the Photo Club over the past six months. In a strong show of community support, the Georgetown Arts & Cultural Center (GACC) has generously donated their facilties for the month of May to exhibit the students' bodies of work. Please check back as we near May for more information regarding students' progress, and details of opening receptions for the students exhibition.
We are in the midst of seeking additional funding through the Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, though additional individual donations would help to offset exhibition costs in May. If you are interested in making a monetary donation, volunteering your time, providing food or beverages for the celebration, or anything to get involved with the club, please contact me to discuss the possibilities. We can use all the community support we can build in order to help these students share their stories of family, place, and identity. Thank you for reading today!
Image credits: Jazmine Calhoun and Zech Beasley