Collaborations IV

by Rachel Hewlett

Collaborations IV is an annual program organized by the Houston Center for Photography that unites students from Houston area high schools. The ambition of the program is to educate and inspire young photographers. Collaborations was founded in 2003 as a challenge to students from two diverse high schools, Jack Yates High School and The Kinkaid School, to come together through a common interest - photography. This year's program has grown to include five additional schools: Lamar High School, Bellaire High School, St. John's School, High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, and Jersey Village High School.

Participating schools are represented in Collaborations IV by up to four students chosen by the photography teachers at each school. These students meet biweekly under my direction to collectively create and execute an exhibition of their photographic work. Students are encouraged to interact during these meetings by critiquing each others' work and collaboratively making decisions about issues related to the program and the exhibition.
During the first meeting, the students participate in a roundtable brainstorming session about the focus of the exhibition. The students then vote on a theme that they find fits their style. Each student interprets the chosen theme to create a cohesive body of work and to tie everyone's work together for the exhibition. This year, the students chose "Identity/Facade", a topic that emphasizes the portrait and architectural subjects prominent in the students' work.In addition to producing work to be exhibited at HCP from April 28 - June 3, 2007, students work together on various gallery and curatorial aspects of the exhibition. After breaking into smaller groups, behind-the-scenes tasks such as framing, installing, curating and writing press releases are distributed among the students. Field trips and other activities are planned to supplement the students' knowledge about this large-scale project. Each group also meets with a professional in their field for advice and guidance in order to fulfill their group assignment. The Collaborations program culminates in a group exhibition that the students help install. The artists are also encouraged to participate in the opening reception for the exhibition and, occasionally, artist talks.