WMCAT arts residency trains novice shutterbugs

Jacob Gentz is enjoying his first time working with a camera other than the one on his phone

Instructor Dennis Grantz reviewed some basic camera settings with a group of teens before turning them loose on a recent Friday morning inside the West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology’s spacious studio and project areas.

Before you could say “rule of thirds,” the dozen students from Northview’s East Campus were crouching, kneeling and stretching to aim supplied cameras at plants; table arrangements; intersecting angles of windows, floors and walls; and one another.

It’s all part of a three-month photography residency the students signed up to take part in as part of Future Focused Fridays, a new initiative aimed at giving hands-on career experience to students at the alternative high school.

“When I first found out about (the photography residency), I was so psyched,” said junior Lizzy Grandon. “Having the opportunity to do this is just one of the best things I’ve done at school.”

WMCAT photography instructor Dennis Grantz shows student Lorna Bronson a setting on the camera she’s using

Same goes for junior Jenna Kirkpatrick. “I want to be able to express myself in ways people can understand other than words. (Photography) helps me figure out who I am.

Art as Expression, Career

Future Focused Fridays is the brainchild of Brent Dickerson, East Campus principal; and Dean of Students Drew Klopcic. The idea stemmed from a career development program that is planned to kick off this school year at the high school’s main campus.

Another group of students attend Grand Rapids Community College’s Leslie E. Tassell M-TEC program, and local business professionals also hold on-campus career sessions.

The idea to get WMCAT involved came from math teacher Josh Clapp, Klopcic said. “I took a look at what they offered and was like, ‘Absolutely. But how are we going to pay for it?’”

Clapp applied for a grant from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, and was awarded enough for half the tuition. A donation from Keller-Williams Realty meant the partnership could go forward. The Northview Education Foundation covers the cost of art supplies at WMCAT and for students who remain at East Campus.

Jenna Kirkpatrick likes to be able to express herself through photography

For the first few months of school, the WMCAT residency focused on video production. After the photography residency, students will spend three months studying graphic design. Each residency will conclude with a group project.

Students who complete each section earn visual performing arts credit, part of the Michigan Merit Curriculum. Not all students in one residency participate in all three, said Klopcic.

“This is what it’s all about, getting them out of their school building and working together. It’s powerful for our students to see that everyone has a role, and what 12 people working together can create. We want them to be proud of what they’ve accomplished.”

Added Dickerson: “It’s had a major impact on our Friday attendance. Word spreads pretty fast.”

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SNN article: Hands-on career exploration via Future Focused Fridays

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio

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