1.) Mission Statement
Inner City Light is a non profit, grass roots program of FriendsOf The Arts. We work with students from various public housing in Chicago,such as the Cabrini Green, Jane Addams, and ABLA homes. We providedisposable cameras to students between the 5th and 7th grades, enablingthem to explore and reflect their environment. We also facilitate publicshowings of their work in both print and digital formats. Rather thanassume we know what is in the best interest of these communities, ourdesire is to be of service and provide resources.
2.) The Problem Issue
In Chicago many children and families of the public housingcommunities, including the Cabrini Green, Abla, and the Robert Taylorhomes, are being affected by a city based initiative. Many of the buildingsin these communities are being demolished and the residents are beingrelocated. Additionally, and especially in the case of the Cabrini Greenand Jane Addams communities, the encroachment of new construction andchanging demographics has led to tension and misperception between thediffering ethnic communities. This leads to a genuinely complex situationand although many residents of the affected housing communities feelpositive about the changes, many do not.
Regardless, it is easy to see that the immediate effect of theseevents on the children involved can be quite difficult. Stereotyping isalready problematic in our diverse society. But compounded with thedisruption of community, complacency, and the increasingly apparentjuxtaposition of wealth and poverty along the lines of color, subtle formsof racism, anger, and conflict increase. We at Inner City Light feelstrongly about the societal relevance of bridging the color gap through themindful promotion of mutual understanding.
3.) Brief History
This idea for this project came nearly two years ago when I wasdocumenting the demolition of of the Robert Taylor buildings. Since I hadno access to the interior of the buildings and did not know any members ofthat community I began to feel that I was ignoring a vital human aspect ofthese historic events.
A friend suggested that I give disposable cameras to children inthe community. The idea seemed solid and took off with a chance meetingof an art teacher from Jefferson School, part of the Jane Addams community.She introduced me to another art teacher at Jenner Academy of the Arts,part of the Cabrini Green community.
I began funding the project out of my own pocket and asked theteachers at both schools to select 5 or 6 students to participate. I askedthe students to think of someone like me when making the photos - anoutsider that had never lived those homes and had no idea what it was like.The results from this initial attempt were quite positive and we began amore focused effort, partnering with a non profit, and providing 35 camerasto over 20 students at two schools and one church.
Visit the Inner City Light Web Site: www.innercitylight.org