The RecTech Youth Media Institute interns at Delridge Community Center partnered with Youngstown Cultural Arts Center’s Director David Bestock to document their summer youth arts project. Our YMI interns task was to create a documentary about the journey of Youngstown’s teen interns as they set out to tell the story of the Delridge neighborhood by painting a mural on the 210 foot retaining wall at Youngstown.
The Youngstown interns were involved in gathering community feedback, brainstorming a design, then transferring the mural design to the wall. They worked under the direction of amazing San Francisco mural artists Louis Chinn and Seattle artist Sara Ferguson. The wall, formerly a target for gang related graffiti, is now a work of art. The youth who created it have a sense of pride and ownership in the wall and our video captures this.
The mural starts with imagery of West Seattle when the Duwamish tribe lived along the clean and beautiful Duwamish river and salmon were plentiful. Then it shows how industry grew up around the river and pollution became a huge problem (the Duwamish is a superfund clean-up site) The interns imagined a tribal rain dancer bringing cleansing rain to Seattle, people working together to clean up the river, and the salmon slowly returning. There are portraits of real neighborhood people on the mural. Chief Seattle’s great grandniece Cecile, tribal leader for the Duwamish, sends light and wisdom to the youth who are our hope for the future.
The mural story ends by challenging people to wake up to the environment and take care of what we have so our youth can have a chance at a positive future. Three of the portraits on the wall are of teens who worked on the mural. Realizing that their likeness will be a part of that wall for years to come was both empowering and mind-boggling!
Our RecTech interns shadowed the project every step of the way. They filmed the process and progress of the Youngstown teens, interviewed the artists, the Duwamish tribal leader, and gathered feedback from others in our community at the Delridge Days celebration. They filmed the ribbon cutting ceremony at the end and created a 20 minute documentary that is as much a testimony to both groups of teens and instructors as it is to the Delridge Community.
The teens in both groups were remarkable, but our RecTech youth media film makers astonished us with their capacity for focused hard work as they quickly learned technical skills and how to work together as a team. We screened our documentary at the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center Theater for parents, friends, and community members on August 25th. Students from both groups stood up at the end and fielded questions from the audience.
While the Youngstown teens were beginning their internship, our teens learned how to use cameras and video editing software by completing assignments. They worked in teams to write, film, and edit several public service announcements, animation shorts, a “Crash Cinema” short story, and independent projects. They learned challenging software and technology tools, how to plan, do, and review a project as a team, and how to tell a digital story.
An example of the independent, personal projects teens completed is that of Jasmine Smith. Jasmine represented Seattle at a national spelling bee this summer and won! We all went to Seattle City Council Chambers to film her receiving recognition for her accomplishment from City Council so she could tell this story as her personal project. You can see it on our RecTech Seattle Vimeo channel along with some of our other work. The short version of our documentary is at https://vimeo.com/105591684. The full length documentary is on You Tube at RecTech Youth Media Institute.
It’s been a rich and engaging experience for all participants; and a lot of hard work. Many thanks to Reel Grrls/University of Washington graduate Evangeline Spracklin, who was terrific at providing our teen interns with video editing instruction. Many thanks to Scott Macklin, Associate Director of the Master of Communication in Communication Leadership program at the UW, who we were fortunate to have as guest lecturer and adviser to the project. We deeply appreciate his time and inspiring expertise. Thanks also to the Power of Place Youth Employment Program for funding our Youth Media Interns this summer!