The Answer is Yes

Bringing photographer Christina Delgado to Cross Country Elementary Middle School in Baltimore City this spring for a self portrait residency was supposed to be one of the highlights of the school year. Last year, when Kristine Buls, the lead science teacher at the school, responded to a call to work with the artist, she knew the opportunity would be just right for her students. In her previous life, Ms. Buls worked as a photographer, so the thought of getting cameras into her students’ hands was irresistible. It had to happen! At the time, of course, no one imagined that by spring, working together in a classroom would not be possible.

Parents, including Latrice Hinton (left), met lead science teacher Kristine Buls (right) at Cross Country Elementary Middle to collect supplies before the self portrait residency began.

As it did around the globe, the COVID-19 pandemic sent the Cross Country students into a starkly different way of living and learning. “I was really upset when I realized we weren’t coming back to school,” said Ms. Buls. The artist residency that had been planned was special. Exelon, the energy provider and parent company of BGE, commissioned the project and would display the finished Cross Country student photographs and mixed media pieces as a permanent installation within their Chicago headquarters. It was a big dealone that the school faculty and staff, Christina Delgado, and the students and their families had all been looking forward to.

Could the adults in our students’ lives be resourceful and creative, proactive, and flexible–not just to ensure that children’s basic needs are met, but that their whole selves are nurturedeven in times of crisis? The answer is yes. Ms. Buls said that she was met universally and enthusiastically with support. “It means so much that they’re using actual cameras instead of cell phones. It’s a very different experience and most of them haven’t had that. And the fact that we could morph this experience from in-person to virtual… I think it’s gonna be different, but I think it’s gonna be great!”

Cross Country Elementary Middle parent Latrice Hinton picks up supplies for her student to participate in the virtual photography residency with Christina Delgado.

The public health crisis could have halted any dreams of working on the project, but this was an opportunity too special to let slip away. With so much already being taken from students because of COVID-19, Principal Stanfield and Young Audiences thought it was more important than ever to create this work during this unique moment in history. “This has been a big undertaking and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the efforts and guidance of Katherine Dilworth from Young Audiences and Kristine Buls—there have been many successes along with many moments of learning and adjusting,” said Christina Delgado. “This experience has played a pivotal role in my teaching/teaching artist career.”

Christina reworked her in-person lessons so that they could be delivered virtually and the school district got the students the equipment they needed to complete the project. “I was elated that through this experience, Cross Country was able to purchase 50 cameras for their school,” said the artist. “It has always been a dream of mine to leave cameras for students and teachers so that the work can continue.”

“Parents have been really, really excited about participating,” said Ms. Buls. “I think the school closures and social distancing has been really difficult on the kids. They feel specialthey’re getting a camera! And I think it’s gonna be special, too, because of the time they’re doing this in. They’re recording history.”

Black Lives Matter

Black lives matter. Young Audiences stands with those fighting for justice in Maryland, Minneapolis, Louisville, and across our country. We honor those who have been murdered and otherwise harmed by our nation’s systemic racism and police brutality.

We recognize that #BlackLivesMatter is a movement, not a moment, and as an organization it is our responsibility to be engaged and stay engaged—both in this powerful moment, and in those that follow. We acknowledge that our organization has benefitted from systems of oppression, and in the fight for racial justice, we must continue to examine and change our own organizational practices and culture.

Artists shape culture. Artists help us to see, understand, and express injustice. And, if we want to build a world that is just—we as a society need to be able to imagine that world. The arts are critical to that. 

Knowing that this time, while not new, is extremely challenging for Black people, we wanted to share a Black only healing space that some may be interested in: 

  • The Healing Hour: On Thursday, June 4, a safe space on Zoom for Black voices to process feelings surrounding black lives lost to police brutality, hosted by a Black clinician Brie Sutton, LGPC

We also want to share some of the organizations and resources that we have found valuable in our learning. The resources below are just some of many resources to explore. 

We are committed to continuing to learn. To listen. To question. To be questioned. To respond. To act. We look forward to growing together.

Resources

Organizations:

Resources: