Students at Sycamore High School gained insight on current issues in Over-the-Rhine through a unique photography project created by David Rosenthal, founder and director of
. By interacting with residents of the Drop-Inn Center and photographing Washington Park, the arts education program called New Voices
connects high school students with their community through photography and writing projects.
"The idea of the whole program is to introduce students to the inner city of Cincinnati through art making, photography, and creative expression. We do that specifically by connecting them with a hot button issue or a specific community in the center of Cincinnati so that they get first hand experience of something that's important to that community," Rosenthal explained.
Students collaborated with residents of the Drop Inn Center in order to gain insight about redevelopments in the area. They focused on Washington Park
with the intent to give a positive spin on the negative reputation that the Park generally possesses. Through the process, students developed themes based on their experiences. Some students focused on the sense of spirituality that the residents possessed, others focused on the division and separation between communities, and some concentrated on the openness and friendliness of the residents, which led into friendships.
Sycamore student, Gabriella Chronis, noted that the close relationships the program allowed her to develop would have been difficult under different circumstances. The experience, she said, has inspired further interest in the community.
"I know New Voices has furthered my interest in social advocacy and I hope to continue working and volunteering in OTR. It also brought communication to my attention; everyone involved speaks another language; we just added a visual one to the mix, hoping to shed a different kind of light on the issues at hand," Chronis said.
Rosenthal hopes that this program will take the students beyond the project alone.
"I hope that the things that they learn will factor into the decisions they make in their lifetime and I hope it's going to factor in their lives in lots of little ways for a very long time," he said.
The students and residents from the Drop Inn Center will participate in a panel discussion during the opening of Welcome to Washington Park at the Cincinnati Art Museum
on February 5th.
Writer: Lisa EnsmingerPhotography by Olivia Smith, provided by David Rosenthal