Residents from Barium Springs Home for Children in Statesville, N.C., will become gallery-worthy photographers this Friday evening in Davidson College's Belk Visual Arts Center. About a dozen of them will display their best work in a finale gala for YouthMAP (Youth Marketing and Photography), a community service organization created by Davidson students to help disadvantaged youth gain self-confidence and develop a creative and marketable outlet through photography.
The public is invited to view and purchase the work from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 6. Proceeds of sales will benefit Barium Springs, and the continuation of YouthMAP's photography outreach programs. See a photo gallery of YouthMap's work.
YouthMAP founder Aly Dove '16 conceived the idea for the organization based on experiences during mission trips to Guatemala and Togo in 2010 and 2012. Dove witnessed visitors taking many pictures of local children, though the children were never permitted to hold the camera themselves.
Dove, however, allowed some of the children to use her camera and take their own photographs. "When I showed them the pictures they took I noticed a positive change in their demeanor," she explained. "They were proud of their work."
Dove's YouthMAP cofounders Max Feinstein '16, Catherine Wu '16 and Jessica Gumucio '16 wanted to provide underprivileged youth in North Carolina with the same sort of positive experience. They submitted a proposal for YouthMAP to the "Ideas of March" competition hosted by the Center for Civic Engagement, won the competition and received a $2,000 grant to purchase equipment.
Through volunteer initiatives and relationships developed by faculty, staff and students, Davidson College has longstanding close ties to the Barium Springs Home for Children. The facility, founded in 1883 as the Presbyterian Orphans Home, provides group homes, therapeutic foster care and adoption programs. It was a natural fit for the YouthMAP program.
Beginning last September, YouthMAP enlisted a team of mentors, including Pooja Potharaju '16, Scott Cunningham '16 and Jordan Luebkemann '14. The volunteers traveled to Barium Springs once each week to teach techniques of photography to residents ranging in age from 14 to 19. Program participants borrowed cameras provided by YouthMAP and took pictures of subjects on the Barium Springs campus.
Dove said that the students' photographic interests vary from natural objects to real-time athletic contests. "It was great to allow them to focus on taking pictures of subjects that they connected with," she said.
Dove noticed that many of the participants began to acquire an "eye" for photography around the third lesson. "Then we began providing the kids with more advanced cameras, and the quality of their pictures dramatically improved," she said.
Dove said photography provides a particularly handy medium for helping kids access their creative abilities. "People often struggle to feel artistically accomplished when they are faced with drawing, painting or other forms of visual art," she said. "Photography is great because anyone can do it, and they see the results immediately. There is effort and skill involved, but it's also about luck and waiting to capture the perfect moment."
There are many skills and values Dove hopes the Barium Springs youth will take away from YouthMAP. "During the gala, the kids will interact with members of the community and potentially improve their communication and marketing skills," she said. "The visitors will also reassure them that their work is valuable and worthwhile."
Along with continued lessons at Barium Springs, Dove hopes to expand YouthMAP to The Ada Jenkins Center in Davidson.
Ultimately, Dove said the most valuable take away from YouthMAP is the affirmation the youth receive about their interests and hard work. "We aren't seeking to make a 180-degree change in these kids' lives," Dove explained. "But hopefully when the youths present their unique pictures of subjects that mean something to them, the positive feedback will elicit a new sense of confidence in their lives."