Inspiring youth to reach for the unreachable is what “Spark — Igniting with Photography” tries to do.
The photographic exhibit at the Al Green Gallery on 64 Merton St. is showcasing portraits taken by at-risk youth alongside celebrity portraits by world-renowned photographer Nigel Dickson.
The collection is a result from a three-week mentorship by Dickson to 10 teenagers from Shoot With This, an initiative designed to inspire youth from the Jane Street and Finch Avenue West area to express themselves through the art of photography.
“The first night I brought my camera and one light,” Dickson said. “I showed them what you could do with it, how diverse one light is and some of them were excited by it.”
Dickson said he is pleased with the collection and the lessons the youth took away from the whole experience.
“For those who took it seriously there was a form of responsibility and some of them rose to that,” Dickson said.
After being a commercial photographer for 30 years, Dickson decided to take his skills to mentoring and teaching.
“I thought ‘this is great, they’ve done something they’ve never done,’” he said. “It makes you feel good and I think it makes them feel good, too.”
The exhibit not only enables the artists to showcase their work, but to make important connections.
“What was great about it was the Jane and Finch community was here and the art community was here,” said the Al Green Gallery’s director Lindy Green.
“They both need exposure to each other and from that you network and meet interesting people.”
Green said she finds most youth mentored through art eventually end up pursuing it as a career.
But the collection isn’t only for show.
Each exhibition at the gallery is linked to a fund or a cause.
Green likes to describe the gallery that has been in the area for 12 years as commercial, but philanthropically based.
“I take two kinds of artists — established artists and artists that may not have the opportunity to show in a commercial space,” she said.
Although the majority of the proceeds for every photograph sold will go to the artist, 25 percent will go to the Ignite the Spark Fund, a Children’s Aid initiative by Andrea Weissman Daniels.
The fund is designed to give underprivileged children access to extracurricular programs in music, arts and sports.
Green spoke of the important role art plays in the empowerment of at risk youth, whether it be fine art, performance art, film or photography.
“It’s different for everybody,” she said. “But you just never know where it can lead.”
“It’s a means of expression, a way to tell your story,” Green said. “To communicate on a deep level that sometimes words alone can not do.”
The exhibit will continue until June 9.
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