Friday, August 14, 2009

Final Thoughts: U Street

It’s all about U. It’s time for U. U Street is your street. These were some of the possible titles that my team brainstormed for our exhibition about the U Street Corridor. I had the pleasure of working with nine fantastic young designers this summer in Investigating Where We Live as we explored U Street. While my group was known as the “quiet group”, that never meant that they were short on creative ideas (or puns, as the titles show) or enthusiasm for making those ideas a reality. All that paired with a truly amazing ability to find common ground and work towards including multiple ideas resulted in a great summer for me (and, I hope, for them as well) and a compelling exhibit.

Each student brought something valuable to the team and helped make the program a success. They all took inspired photographs and confidently interviewed people about the U Street neighborhood. Beyond that, however, Bryant was a great compromiser and managed to merge ideas for the exhibit together while still maintaining their integrity. Kealea, Claire and Emily were always willing to speak their minds and share their ideas and helped move the discussion about themes and design along. Justin and Jasmin produced inspiring artwork and writing, respectively, that added immensely to the exhibit. Olivia, Arianna and Kwame took the lead on the interactive elements in the exhibit, and persevered through all the challenges we encountered with them. Together we were a well-oiled machine that moved along surely and confidently to the opening date of the exhibit.

This is my second time in this position, and I continue to learn more each session. One of the things I like most about my job is that it teaches me not to underestimate anyone, especially young people. The perspective that these students bring to taking, analyzing and thinking about photographs and photography in general is always amazing. So often adults can dismiss this age group because of their alleged lack of experience in the world. If anything, though, their perspective is sometimes fresher and clearer than our own. It shows you how fantastic the combination of youthful energy, engaging material and interested mentors can be.

And, of course, I have to mention my fantastic Teen Assistant, James Brown. This is the second time I have had the honor of working with James in this capacity. He dubbed us “Batman and Batman”, because “there was no sidekick this time.” That is completely true. James helped immensely this summer by taking on the planning of site visits and knowing how best to work with the kids when I couldn’t be in three places at once. James also handled all the math of the layout and is about 100 times better at using power drills than I am. I couldn’t have done it without him this summer!

U Street Team: You did a fantastic job this summer. You should all be proud of the exhibit and your hard work. It really is time for you!

Andrew Costanzo, Team Leader

Final Thoughts: Columbia Heights

Having worked with the outreach programs at NBM in various capacities over the last year, I have to say that I am always amazed by and impressed with the students' final work. IWWL '09 is no exception. Coming into the program as a Team Leader I didn't quite know what to expect other than that somehow I, and the rest of the IWWL team, would get 30 teenagers excited about photography, creative writing, and exhibit design. With the group of students I worked with this summer, these were not hard tasks to accomplish. Not only did each student take wonderful photos, but also took on an active role when it came to selecting the exhibit's theme, the best photos to support that theme, and assisting with its final installation.

To the Columbia Heights (Heeey!) Team, I enjoyed getting to know each of you. Ya'll are a thoughtful, smart, creative, and funny bunch of kids. Thanks for a wonderful summer! Amazing work!

Lauren Wilson, Team Leader

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

IWWL 2009 Exhibition Photos

Investigating Where We Live: Communities in Motion

Visitor Comment - 8/11/2009

Introduction Wall

Shaw: Urban Decay or a Brand New Day?

IWWL 2009 Exhibition Opening!

Investigating Where We Live: Communities in Motion Exhibition Opening

Thursday, July 30, 2009

July 29

By Janelle, age 12

Hey! My name is Janelle and I'm 12 years old. This is my first year at IWWL and I'm in the Shaw group.

Today seemed like it would never end, not that it was bad. I got there at 9:00, and we started to do more work on our exhibit. 3 people came in to look at what we finished already. They were critics. After they left, is was about 11:30.

Today was the family lunch too. At about 11:45, parents and children started to come in. After lunch, the parents left. When they left, we started working on our exhibit and changing some of it. When it turned 2:00, we listened to Jamee for some announcements, then we headed off for home.

July 29

By Justin, age 16

This year I have learned a lot about U Street. My mom came to IWWL to eat lunch and meet people today. She went to a play on U Street called "Crowns." She liked the play a lot. She knows that Ben's Chili Bowl is near the theater. She also knew that Richard Lee's flower shop was there for a long time.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

July 28

From Kealea, age 15

My experience with IWWL has been great. I've learned so much from U Street's history and how to work with a team. I feel I'm a better photographer, group participant, and all-around Washingtonian. I know so much more about U Street and the surrounding area. I get a hands-on approach that taught me more than a simple textbook would. To be able to hear peoples' stories then document and preserve them gave me such a new take on things. Everything and everyone has a story, we just need to listen and preserve it with our own stories, writings and artwork.

July 27

From Bryant, age 13

Today we spent the whole day in groups trying to create our exhibit. The first thing we did was decide if we wanted to blow up any of our other photos from our site visits on Day 4. Then once we had all of our blown-up photos we decided our top 10 photos. Then we lined them up across the floor for our group members to decide which 5 photos they liked and thought were the best for the exhibit of the top 10. Once everyone voted we placed the photos across the floor and pulled out or brainstorming sheet of all the ideas we wanted to display with the photos. For every idea we wanted one or two photos that would explain it in the exhibit. After we picked out the best photos that would represent an idea we came back upstairs from the Great Hall to have lunch.

After lunch, our team separated into groups to come up with ideas for: 1) which interviews we were going to use, what interactives, 2)what interactives we wanted the visitors to participate in, and 3) what kind of designs and layous we wanted to use for our wall. Finally, after we finished with our groups we shared our ideas with the team

July 27

From Jasmine, age 13

Today we picked our photos and title and theme. We looked at interview videos to see the ones we wanted the most. We had so much fun and we even have the next day planned.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

July 22

From Cheyenne, age 15

Day 8 was filled with brainstorming for our exhibit and getting feedback from a curator from the National Museum of African American History and Culture. His name was Paul. Then he went to each group for 20 minutes to help us along with our exhibit. This showed us examples of how our interactives [interactive elements] could be. Then the Columbia Heights neighborhood group went to the gallery where our exhibit will be. After lunch, we went to the American History Museum to look at another exhibit so we could get more ideas for ours. After that. we came back and discussed how we could use interactions in our Columbia Heights exhibit.

July 22

From Sarah, age 14

Today we focused on the design of our exhibit. The Take Home Design Challenge from the night before had been to list themes that are in our neighborhood. We used these themes today to brainstorm potential titles for each neihborhood group's part of the exhibit. We also spoke with a curator from the National Musuem of African American Culture and History, Paul Gardullo. He went to each group and talked to each of us about the design of our exhibit. After lunch each neighborhood group went to a different musuem and looked at the design of some exhibitions. We answered questions about the exhibits and then talked about them in our neighborhood groups. Our Take Home Design Challenge for today is to answer and list things about the museums we visited today.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

July 21

From Marcellus, age 15

Day 7 was a fun-filled day! It was the day of our last site visit in Columbia Heights. We took the final round of pictures and our goal was to include the residents. We also took pictures of the landmarks and historic buildings of the neighborhood. I learned that Columbia Heights is very diverse when it comes to race and language. I also learned that a lot of construction is taking place there. This lets us know that the city is changing and growing.

When we got back, our team brainstormed our final thoughts of the site visit. One of the aspects that we pondered were the culture, creativity, art, and change of Columbia Heights. I can't wait for Day 8 because we are going to begin planning the make-up and theme of the exhibition that will be showcased at the museum soon!

July 21

From Niara, age 13

This is the seventh day of the program. These past two weeks have been very educating for me in order to learn more. In Columbia Heights, I learned a lot about how the environment has changed. Since the Tivoli Theatre was out of business or changed to something else such as the Gala, this is a very diverse place to be.

I learned a lot about the neighborhood I remember when Girard Park wasn't there. I also remember when the shops were not on 14th Street. Columbia Heights has changed a lot since a couple of years ago- it has become diverse, and that is good for the younger children that are being raised in the area so they will learn to get along with other races.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

July 16

From Claire, age 14

On Thursday, July 16 we did interviews. While at the Building Museum we practiced interviews. We put together introductions and 3 main questions that we would ask the interviewees. We (the U Street Team) then metro'd on the green line to U Street. We brought our cameras so we could video people during the interviews (the ones that would allow us to record them, at least).
When we got to U Street, we split into 5 groups of 2. One partner asked the questions and the other could video or take notes. Each partner got to do each job. We got 9 interviews total (yes, we were missing one). I think this was pretty good. I realized that guys who live, work, or chillax in the U Street area are more likely to accept your request to interview than girls. Just a note!

When we got back to the National Building Museum, we did 3 writing exercises with Jess. Jess used to be a team leader during summer 08 at IWWL. My favorite pieces of writing that I wrote was a poem about U-Street. First we came up with 20 words about the neigbhorhood we were investigating. Next, we arranged them into a poem. Even though mine did not make much sense, I still think it turned out to be pretty interesting


Interesting murals food loud love
Hidden friendship singing power
Casual happenings city within a city
Nice peace change think neutral
Homey work diverse

July 16

From Olivia, age 14

Hi! I am a student with IWWL. My name is Olivia. The past week has been fun. We visited neighborhoods, did interviews, learned, and took pictures. This week my design challenge was to tell about a pictures with a poem.

Green wishes
Happy Calm

July 16

From Emily, age 14

On Thursday, during our site visit, we got to do interviews. At first the idea of talking to a complete stranger was a little weird and I did not want them to say “No, I can’t do an interview.” I found out it was easier than it seemed. I found out some interesting information about U Street. I think these interviews really will help with our exhibit. I’m glad we did them. After our site visit, we had to make a poem out of twenty words during a creative writing workshop.
My Poem:

Many people thrive, diverse community
Colorful sights, smells
Helping friends, social
Chili, shops, busy work
Historical, live integration
Happy play, independent

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Collaborative Poem Exercise

From an "exquisite corpse" writing exercise today:

Columbia Heights

Columbia Heights is a mishmash of loud and quiet, sun and shade, old and new
Street art pops up out of nowhere
Kind and mean people walk the streets
A very diverse neighborhood with plenty of different races
There are historic buildings mixed with the new.

July 15

From Amira, Age 13

Yesterday the Columbia Heights group went around the northern part of the neighborhood. We saw many row houses. Each row house has a front yard. All the owners had personalized theirs with wind mills, fountains, garden gnomes, and especially flowers (or weeds). As we walked further south the houses seem to increase in size. Further West buildings became more commercial. I took a picture of a street sign that I really like because it shows the downtown part of Columbia Heights.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

July 14

From: London, age 12

My first week in the IWWL program was great. I had a lot of fun catching up with my old friends and making new ones. I remember the day we got our cameras, we all took so many wonderful pictures of Shaw and each other. We went on our first site visit last Thursday in Shaw and I had a blast. This program is full of exciting people, Jamee is a big help to everone and my neighborhood leader, Brian is funny and he keeps me going. I love this program and I had a great week.

July 14

From: Giovanni, age 13

On July14 we did many things. For example we went over some different types of buildings and identified different aspects. Also we went around the National Building Museum and outside to complete a scavenger hunt. We took pictures of different types of materials and sites. We went over some architectural and building vocabulary words to understand what they mean. For support of this we made 3d buildings out of boxes and different things. In conclusion we went over our Take Home Design Challenge and saw ideas that were related to houses and homes.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Groundhog Day

From: James Brown

I must admit the training and first day the students arrived seemed like the rewind of a bad 80s movie. It was all the same as the year before and the year before that. Every exercise and activity mirrored those I had already done up until the point when people started to participate. This made me think of the uniqueness of the National Building Museum and its outreach programs that have no competitors in the museum education world. There are no other institutions in this area that offer the programs this museum offers, they don’t come close to what NBM has done with reaching out into the community and educating children.
Completing the Investigating Where We Live program two prior times, once as a participant and the other as my existing teen assistant position, has been the most fulfilling summer activity I have ever done. The program has and is continuing to expand my awareness and understanding of the individuality and similarities of different DC neighborhoods. The skills such as discussion leading and communication that I have learned throughout my partaking in this program have h elped in just about every area of my life. My photographic sense has also been heightened due to the way IWWL helps me look at things in a different perspective than I normally would. My hopes for the program this summer are already through the roof and climbing everyday as I interact with the students. I am grateful to go through this photographic exhibition making process again.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Our First Week

From: Alex Brown:

In my first week as a Teen Assistant in the Investigating Where We Live summer program, I have observed a lot. First and most important, in the last couple of weeks I've gained a substantial amount of knowledge about the neighborhood of Shaw-Howard University. Being a previous resident of Shaw it surprised me how much I didn't know about the community. Being in this program I am also developing leadership and communication with those younger than me. My personal goal for this summer is to interact and get to know as much as I can regarding each student, have a wonderful time, and make certain that our students acquire as much information as possible about their surrounding neighborhoods. In addition, all of the students are magnificent, eager to learn, and a lot of them seem to have a particular attachment to photography.

IWWL is the BEST!!!!

(above photo of the historic Howard Theatre was taken by Alex on an initial site visit to Shaw)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Reflections on the First Week

From: Antoina Wynn:

As a Teen Assistant for IWWL, the first day with the students was an exciting learning experience. The students are great, they all have individual qualities that when put together can create a wonderful exhibit. I have noticed that many of them are starting to form close bonds and friendships that everyone can benefit from.

My goal for the summer with IWWL as a Teen Assistant is to build upon the relationship I have with some of the students and to help them have a fun meaningful summer. I also would like to improve my knowledge of photography and the Columbia Heights neighborhood because I believe that I am always learning no matter where I am.

The lessons this week, “Learning to Look” and “Photography 101,” made me realize just how much more I needed to know and wanted to know. I now understand the reason why the museum looks the way it does and the interesting frieze around the building. Just by looking a little close I realized what the museum was used for in the past. Photography 101 made me realize just how much I love to take pictures and try to make sure that they are perfect in my eyes. The lighting and composition must be just right in order for me to be happy with my photos. I even have a new favorite photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson. Being a Teen Assistant for IWWL is a great way to spend the summer!