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Franklin Fine Arts Students Make Old Town Beautiful With Photo Installation

By Mina Bloom | September 20, 2016 5:24am
 Marcus LaVespa, 14, is one of the student photographers whose work is on display.
Marcus LaVespa, 14, is one of the student photographers whose work is on display.
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DNAinfo/Mina Bloom

OLD TOWN — Franklin Fine Arts Center students are spreading a profound message in Old Town through public art.

The magnet arts school, 225 W. Evergreen Ave., teamed up with local nonprofit Art on Sedgwick on the "You Make This Place Beautiful" project, bringing more than a dozen portraits of students to the Wells Street fence between Goethe and Evergreen streets.

The exhibit includes photographs of students taken by students. [All photos DNAinfo/Mina Bloom]

The photographs were taken by Franklin students in an art class led by their teacher Margaret Koreman. With help from local organizations, Charlie Branda, founder of Art on Sedgwick, blew up the photographs for all of the neighborhood to see.

"It was so nice to have someone from the community to honor and support what we did. For someone in the community to be like, 'I'm going to blow them up and take a risk,' it's huge," Koreman said.

It's a risk, she said, because the photographs could be vandalized. 

"What if someone decides they want to draw on it? Are we OK with that?" Koreman recalled asking the students. "We decided that's part of being an artist, having to step out of your comfort zone."

Using professional techniques, the students created shadows and other effects, Koreman said. The result was little to no photo manipulation.

Some of the portraits are moody, while others are more light-hearted. The idea was to capture the essence of each subject, which the students did by making their subjects feel comfortable, Koreman said.

"We wanted the kids to understand that to get good photos from a subject, you have to learn to talk to them. It's about learning how to build relationships with people you don't know," she said.

The project was a collaboration between Franklin Fine Arts Center and Art on Sedgwick, as well as other local organizations.

For the student photographers, the project has a strong message that they hope resonates with the neighborhood and the rest of the city.

"Everyone has different things about them that makes them beautiful," 13-year-old photographer Miniya Wideman said.

"This project can show people who have been self-conscious or haven't been thinking positively about themselves that even though you're different, you're still beautiful."

That opinion was shared by 14-year-old photographer Heidi Wier.

"Nobody should think they aren't good enough, that they aren't beautiful," Wier said. "In today's society, people tend to think they're not good enough people because of what people call them through the Internet." 

Photographer Marcus LaVespa, 14, said the message, "You Make This Place Beautiful," is especially important in a diverse neighborhood like Old Town.

"Everyone brings something to the table. Everyone makes a difference in the school," LaVespa said.

(from left) Heidi Wier, Marcus LaVespa and Miniya Wideman are all student photographers whose work is on display.

Koreman said the photographs will likely stay up for an entire year, which is welcome news for the student photographers.

"We have more positivity than negativity here. Just cause one school does it doesn't mean you can't do it. Kids from Jenner [Academy of the Arts] will come and see them. Everyone will feel like we can work together a build a better community every day," Miniya said. 

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