STOCKBRIDGE -- Stockbridge will be on display as previously unseen before -- through the camera lenses of local high school students.
This year, the photography students of the Spartan Launch after-school and summer program at Monument Mountain Regional High School in Great Barrington formed a new partnership with the Stockbridge Chamber of Commerce, The Red Lion Inn and Lavender Door Gallery of Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge.
Under the tutelage of local photographer Michael Flower, who has taught digital photography skills in the Spartan Launch Program since its inception in 2010, 10 young photographers have documented the markets, local businesses, the people behind the jobs, the natural landscape, and changing seasons in Stockbridge, producing more than 100 images.
Public exhibitions of the students' work will be hosted throughout the town. The exhibit opens today and continues through Sunday at the Stockbridge Library. The Lavender Door Gallery of Austen Riggs will host the work from May 21 to June 7, and the Town Offices, second floor, will host from May 27 to June 7. The exhibits are open to the public for viewing.
"I definitely see things differently now," said Monument freshman Sofié Ruderman. She said she joined the program because she was, "really looking for something to do after school."
Flower provided students with instruction and guidance on photography techniques, including shooting photos, light, composition and also editing. He took students in all kinds of weather on field trips to the Red Lion Inn, Chesterwood, Naumkeag and the archives at the Norman Rockwell Museum, among other places. Students got special behind-the-scenes access at some of these venues.
"It felt like we were really important," Ruderman said.
Students who are also contributing to the exhibit include: ninth-graders Quinn Abrams, Georgia Bass, Alex Furcht, Luke Hildreth, Victoria Ryan, Alianne Schatz, Sydnie Strawn; junior Jamie Martin and senior Hannah Young.
Typically, students are left to their own accord when it comes to producing images. This year, Flower suggested the Stockbridge project as a way to better connect students with their local community.
"It was kind of difficult because we had to think about the buildings and wide-frame angles instead of maybe a detailed close-up of a flower that we might normally take," said Strawn.
"But we're lucky to have the opportunity to take on an assignment like this," Bass said.
The school furnished cameras for the students, while project sponsors helped cover the cost of ink and paper for printing and matting students' photos.
For Ryan, who lives in Pittsfield, the opportunity to explore Stockbridge was eye-opening.
"It's unique and pretty and there's a lot of cool architecture," said Schatz.
Spartan Launch is funded by a federal 21st Century Community Learning Center Grant, with a goal to help students find and develop a passion for learning through engaging and educational after school programming. Other offerings this year included a culinary program, CrossFit training, karate, storytelling, fashion design, gravity car racing and the multimedia "Music in Common" course. The programs meet twice a week until 5 p.m., and include meeting time and snacks.
"I've seen some friendships grow," said Spartan Launch site coordinator Anne D'Aniello, "Students open up so differently here than they might in class."
To learn more about Spartan Launch programs contact Anne D'Aniello, site coordinator at (413) 528-3346, ext. 113. To learn more about how to support or partner with Spartan Launch, contact Tom Kelly, district program director at (413) 644-2300, ext. 3306.
To reach Jenn Smith:
or (413) 496-6239.
On Twitter: @JennSmith_Ink