Anitra Redlefsen
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home >> teaching & workshops > visual literacy project

Visual Literacy Project

Anitra Redlefsen, M.S.

This past summer (2004), my husband Dain and I had the opportunity and pleasure to work with Akron Public School’s Project R.I.S.E., an organization that provides services to children and youth who are experiencing homelessness. The project, “PhotoSynthesis: A Photo Literacy Project,” was designed by me for teen age girls and was made possible by a grant from the Women’s Endowment Fund, Akron Community Foundation. Using the visual art form of photography, the teens explored various aspects of the art form, of composition, matting and mounting photography, journal writing and story writing. The theme for our work together was: “Me, My World, and Me As A Woman In the World,” which was the title of the exhibit of their work which was subsequently displayed at Charles Mayer Gallery from September 10 through October 11, 2004.

The exhibit will be traveling in January to the Ohio Department of Education's offices in Columbus, Ohio. In the spring it will travel to the Weathervane Theatre in Akron, Ohio in conjunction with their play, “Little Women.”

We are so proud of all the art created by these exceptional young women! There were articles in the West Side Leader and the Sun Newspapers; there will be an article in an upcoming issue of Epitimone Magazine and in the winter issue of the Ohio Department of Education newsletter. The Sun article can be found here.

The project was not just about the art work that the teens created and exhibited. It was about how we worked together as a group, discussions about journal keeping, women who kept journals and why. It was about how to look at images, to explore how they are used to communicate meaning and how we determine meaning for who we are through images. We talked about elements of composition, space, points of view, backgrounds, and foregrounds. We learned how to operate a variety of 35 mm cameras, went on several field trips and photo shoots, and studied and discussed the life and work of photographer Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879). What was her world like in the Victorian Age? How are our lives today, as women, the same or different? What do we care deeply about as women in the world today, and what do we want to protect and pass along to women of the future? We journaled our thoughts and feelings, shared our experiences, and along the way, we created some extraordinary pieces of art.

This project and its exhibit was as rich in content as it was in process, in what one can see visually in front of you and what you can only imagine that took place that you cannot see here. As a Teaching Artist, sometimes you hope, you dream, that all of the ideas you have, all of the information that you want to share, all of the enthusiasm for the medium that you have will come together and mean something to others. As an educator, I am also dedicated to using the arts as a way to learn about as many things as possible and in as many ways as possible. It is no accident when these things do come together to provide an integrated and rich life learning experience both for participants and myself. No accident—it is the magic that happens when learning and the arts come together!

Here are some samples of the wonderful artwork created by these exceptional young women! Enjoy!


Read About the Project in the Akron Community Foundation Newsletter

Copyright © 2004 Anitra Redlefsen
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