At risk youth place photographic efforts into new exhibition

OCEANSIDE — Unlike many art exhibits at major museum galleries, “Parallel Visions” features the work of amateur photographers between the ages of 14-18. The unique photographic expressions at-risk youth, many of whom had never taken a picture before, were on display at the exhibit’s opening night November 12 at the Oceanside Museum of Art.
The display was organized by the Transitional Youth Academy, a prevention and intervention program for at-risk youth operated by Interfaith Community Services, a non-profit organization serving the marginalized populations in North San Diego County.
The scope of the academy is broad and includes behavioral health and crisis intervention counseling, educational support services, vocational development and general life skills training. The academy also operates the “Working Pirates” program at Oceanside High School to provide academic and vocational services as well as gang prevention and intervention to students.
The exhibit features 100 images captured both inside and outside of the youths’ communities and was a collaborative effort including 42 students from Oceanside and 12 from Cartagena, Colombia.
After receiving high-quality digital cameras and lessons by professionals, the budding photographers were given free reign to capture whatever images struck a chord with them. “Some of these are really just amazing,” said Petra Morford, as she examined each photograph.
Jeannine Guarino, the academy’s program manager said the finished product was a huge accomplishment for the students, staff and community.
“As a museum, we’re pretty discerning with what we put on the walls,” said museum Director Ed Fosmire. “I’m proud to have these photographs,” he said, adding that they represent the relationship between art and the community. “We’re here to serve the community,” Fosmire said. “Arts education is a major component of that service.”
While some of the students enjoyed the experience as a once in a lifetime event, others looked forward to honing their photographic skills. Jordan Smith, 17, a participant in the academy for the past four years was showing his work, “Holes.” While Smith was enthusiastic about the progression of his photographic skills, he was even more hopeful about his future. Having received a scholarship to the United States Military Academy at Westpoint earlier that day, Smith was beaming. “Yea, I didn’t think I would get this far but I’ve had a lot of support,” he said.
His parents, Jeff and Stacy said they were pleasantly surprised by their youngest child’s talent. “This program has opened doors for our son when none were open because of some bad choices he made,” Jeff said. “There’s so much negative with youth it’s wonderful to see something so positive to express themselves.”
The exhibit runs through December 17 at OMA, 704 Pier View Way.
For more information about Interfaith or to purchase an original photo or print visit interfaithservices.org or call (760) 721-2117.

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