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Twin Town High (vol. 8)
Making a scene with Youth Media Network
Wednesday 08 February @ 13:32:25
by Allison Herrera
We wait as tiny body parts are attached to a figure on a conveyor belt. Cut to the next scene and thousands of reproductions of the same man are standing in formation reminiscent of Chinese Terra Cotta Warriors. The camera pulls back and there are still thousands more. “An epic animation,” reads the title over blaring Star Wars-esque music, a soundtrack composed by the maker of this clever cutout animation entitled, “Infitus Aedificio.”
another video called “Gangs and Violence,” Reanna Buckanaga asks
her peers, “Do you know anyone in a gang?” The answer to this, and
other questions, are given by a young woman with long, black hair and a T-shirt
that reads, “You Know You Love Me.” She talks to us in front of
her kitchen window and we are riveted by her honesty. Her firsthand accounts
are interrupted by statistics and pixilated images of staged fighting, which
let us glimpse into this world.
These videos and others are part of this Saturday’s 70-minute program
at the Walker Art Center. It’s a youth-curated show of some of the Twin
Cities finest media makers. Videos in this showcase will surprise you with their
range of subject matter demonstrating an equally wide range of technical abilities.
While it is obvious that some have great skills in front of the computer and
behind the camera, the less technically sophisticated will wow you with their
honesty and pull-no-punches approach. Subjects such as identity, politics, gun
violence, gay marriage, public service announcements, and pure artistic expression
are woven together with handheld camera work and quick editing.
The Twin Cities Youth Media Network sponsors the showcase. It’s an alliance
made up of several organizations designed to support the growing youth media
educators here in the Twin Cities. Some organizations have been around for years,
while others are just beginning to blossom. One thing is clear: Youth media
is experiencing an explosion not just here, but across the country. Organizations
like Listen Up, Manhattan Neighborhood Network and Current TV are all producing
and featuring fine work made by youth on many of these same issues.
Youth media educators come from all disciplines and backgrounds. Nancy Norwood,
at the arts high school, Perpich Center for Arts Education, has been teaching
young people the art of photography and video-making for nearly 25 years. As
she sits in her office in front of a large Battleship Potemkin poster, she remembers
using the old beta portapaks. She knew she wanted to teach before she graduated
from college. She loved teaching as much as her own artwork.
“I see the challenge of creating curriculum the same way you might develop
a video piece,” she says.
Throughout her tenure, student’s ideas haven’t changed. Technology
is just a way to express your ideas.
“In many ways, I haven’t changed the way I teach. It’s still
moving image and sound.
“Students benefit from this program whether they attend art school or
not. They learn how to problem solve and they think about things differently.”
Unlike the rigorous Perpich Center (PCAE) experience, most youth media programs
only meet after school, and for some students it might be their only exposure
to technology and media. Many of these students use it to speak to issues in
their community through video. While Norwood takes pride in her work, she validates
her peers’ work and says that their existence is essential.
For example, teacher Mike Hazard from the Center for International Education,
came to her class, where they embarked on a video haiku project. Student Kirsten
Slungaard began to make her own documentaries as part of history class The first
one was about Walt Disney and the second one about the Chinese occupation of
Tibet. In this Saturday’s showcase, her narrative short “Ananke”
will screen. It’s about kids making choices.
“Films can have a brilliant impact,” she says.
“I learn more about myself and the rest of the world than [in] any other
For her, the organizations, which are part of the Twin Cities Youth Media Network,
bring people together in a field where its very nature is solitary.
of the participants and all of the curators for this festival are young women.
It’s really no accident. So many organizations like TV by Girls and the
Walker Art Center with its Girls in the Directors Chair festival encourage and
support young women media makers.
“The technology has become so accessible,” says Laura Robardsgantenbein.
She is a member of the Walker Art Centers Teen Arts Council. Her filmmaking
endeavors started as a hobby until she attended a Directing Divas workshop at
the Walker Art Center.
Lily Ball is another media maker and curator for the festival. She started out
at Phillips Community Television and became so interested that she now attends
Perpich Center for Arts Education where she will graduate this year.
“I enjoyed the freedom I had at PCTV,” she remarked after explaining
how rigorous her studies were in the media program at Perpich Center. She also
teaches 4th and 5th graders video production at Richard Green School every Tuesday.
“A good youth media organization needs to encourage its participants and
have accessible technical skills for their students,” said Lily. “Kids
love cameras and they live in a media saturated society. Yet, we still have
not permitted them to use the tools of production,” said Hazard. He’s
the artist in residence at the Center for International Education, a nonprofit
started in 1972, which produces programs for TV and teaches media to people
of all ages.
He has worked in schools all over the Twin Cities and has approached the most
serious of subjects with a whimsical flair. Most recently, he completed a project
with students at Lake Country School about the late Paul Wellstone called the
Magic Green School Bus.
“The main thing is to never lose the joy of making and the experience
of being in the world,” he said.
It’s his belief, also shared by other media makers, that we live in a
media-saturated society, which is why media literacy is so important.
“It’s a survival skill. To begin to perceive how it works, how it’s
made, and how it affects you as an individual is to begin to take control of
your experience in this world.” ||
All City Youth film Showcase is this Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Walker
Art Center, and is free.
The event is sponsored by the Twin
Cities Youth Media Network, which includes The
Center for International Education, In-Progress, Intermedia
Arts, Saint Paul Neighborhood
Network, Perpich Center
for Arts Education, Phillips
Community Television, the Walker
Art Center Teen Programs, The
Humphrey Forum, TV
by Girls, The Science Museum
of Minnesota, and Independent
Feature Project Minnesota.
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