by Brigid Walshe ’19
“Civic engagement” may be a requirement in Providence College’s core curriculum, but, for many, it is seen as both an opportunity and a duty. Students may utilize courses at PC to extend themselves into the community, and work to connect with the world beyond campus walls.
Last week, PC’s Community Lens class presented their showcase, exhibiting students’ work with local kids at Providence’s ¡CityArts! for the Youth, as well as YouthRAP, an after school program that is a part of the Smith Hill Community.
¡CityArts! began its work in 1992 and it was developed as an initial response to the community’s critical need for positive programs to engage youth during out-of-school time. Today, kids in the program work with local artists, educators, and students from the surrounding community, including Providence College.
According to Olivia D’Elia ’19, the Community Lens class itself incorporates different elements of photography, public and community service, and global studies into their work in the classroom and at ¡CityArts!. “It consists of students going to different youth art organizations and teaching kids photography and how photography can affect a community, and how photography can help them raise their voice in their community and empower themselves.”
At the end of the semester, the students create an exhibition, titled CommYOUnity, to display their work, along with the work of the local kids. For D’Elia, a studio art major with a concentration in photography, art is something that she is passionate about and it’s an important medium to help artists express themselves. Each member of the class was paired up with a local kid who volunteered with ¡CityArts!.
D’Elia’s partner was Yanely, who is 11. To D’Elia, she was a little artist starting to come out of her shell. As D’Elia recalls, “she was very courageous and didn’t want to share her photos with the class, but she opened up and I learned a lot from her.” Her favorite memory was when they did an activity where Yanely had to make her own superhero, and she created a superhero artist, whose secret lair was an art studio where she could make whatever kind of art she wanted. “It was so creative and you never think about superheroes whose secret power was the power to be creative, and I love that,” D’Elia says.
D’Elia has even said she can’t wait to go back and volunteer. These kids will continue to take courses and she can’t wait to see them grow as artists.
For Hannah Mackie ’19, the exhibit was personally touching. “Not only did it show that the students worked really hard this semester to build photography skills and take some real high quality pictures, but it was evident that they had worked really hard to develop relationships with the community.” She said loved how every photograph was different; some were of people, others reflected community events around Providence, such as the Women’s March, and that there was no limitation to what the students had to photograph.
According to D’Elia, artists form their own communities when they find people who are passionate about the same thing. A bond forms that brings people together, and that is the sense of community that D’Elia and her classmates were looking for and found through Community Lens.