On July 17, we escaped the humidity in the air-conditioned underbelly of the Studio Museum in Harlem to meet up with the teens from the Expanding The Walls (ETW) program. This was the second part of our two-part Summer exchange with ETW participants. The students in this program had been using the photographs of Harlem Renaissance photographer James Van Der Zee as a springboard to create collages, photographs, and writing that eventually culminated in their exhibition. After participating in a few noise-level raising get-to-know-you games we viewed and discussed the ETW teens’ work.
Entitled Illuminations, the exhibition features two of each student’s photographs side by side with a James Van Der Zee photograph. Students took photographs that correlated specifically with the idea of reflection and the themes and imagery of Van Der Zee’s work. In the Expanding the Walls program, teens discuss social and political issues as well. They visited us just last Wednesday to check out the social-movement-themed work currently on view at the Whitney in the exhibition Sharon Hayes: There’s So Much I Want To Say To You. Youth Insights and Expanding the Walls teens shared perspectives on the Illuminations exhibition and recommended additional art works to each other that have moved us individually. Our visit to the Studio Museum of Harlem was full of mingling, sharing ideas, and for myself, personally getting to know my home, Harlem, in a more community-conscious way.