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Children find creative soul through photography

By: MARSHA CANRIGHT, The Galveston County Daily News
March 8, 2014 Updated: March 8, 2014 at 10:08 am

GALVESTON, Texas (AP) — Send 22 fourth-graders into the world with a camera and ask them to capture their everyday lives for three weeks. What you get is a glimpse into the mysterious terrain of childhood as seen through the eyes of a 10-year-old.

"Through A Child's Eyes" is a collaboration between Jessica Antonelli's fourth-grade art class at Early Childhood University and the Galveston Arts Center led by arts intern India Coleman.

"Through this project we have the privilege to enter a child's world, and see what they see," Antonelli said.

The exhibit is a compilation of photographic moments — baby brothers, much-loved pets, cousins fighting, saying grace before dinner, friends hanging out, and siblings watching TV, in short, everyday life.

"Photography has the unique ability to record the moments that fill our everyday lives," Coleman told The Galveston County Daily News ( ).

Ivyan Woods snapped pictures of his pet snake Charlie. Scarlett Koch shot a curvy cactus in her family's garden. Kaylhan Garcia took photos of her father working in the garage, and Damian Pickett shot rows of quarters in neat stacks at the student council fundraiser.

Brianna Levario photographed her mother, Sofia, cooking. "It was cool, amazing, but how it feels is hard to explain," she said. "Taking pictures is like dancing. You learn how to do it and then you just do it."

Levario also took a photograph of her room when it was dirty and then again when it was clean. Before and after, she said.

The kernel of Coleman's inspiration was a new exhibit at the arts center, "Home Improvement," which features photographers who focus on family life.

When Antonelli and Coleman were discussing potential community arts projects, they thought: Why not let local children take photographs of their daily lives and families? When Linda Dark of offered to fund the project, it became a reality.

Before the cameras arrived, students had short classes in photography. They talked about principles of design and practiced the rule of thirds on their iPads.

"That encouraged the exploration of a whole new art medium tied to technology," Antonelli said.

Cameras in hand, the children relished having control over an aspect of their lives.

"I liked being in charge," Emma Garza said. "I was proud. When you have the camera, you are the main person. You tell people what to do."

Scarlett Koch agreed, but said control had its limits. Her cats would not cooperate because they didn't like the flash.

The project was popular across-the-board with the children and their families.

"Creative expression through the arts is what brings joy and fun to life," Antonelli said.

But it's deeper than that.

"Art-makers are critical thinkers," Antonelli said. "Instead of accepting the world as it comes, celebrating or complaining about it, artists see the world through a creative lens."

For Pickett, it was a meditative experience. "Taking pictures made me feel calm and settled down," he said.

Practical skills also apply as the 10-year-olds addressed envelopes for invitations to the exhibit and wrote placards to accompany their photographs.

"They are paying special attention to spelling and grammar," Antonelli said. "I think they are motivated because the whole island is watching."

For Ivyan Woods, being the family photographer was inspiring. "I always wanted to be famous," he said.

Selected photographs from each fourth-grader will appear in the exhibit "Through a Child's Eyes" at Central Christian Church in Galveston on Saturday.

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