Editor’s note:
This summer, Creative Art Works hired Shay Epps, a former Youth Apprentice, to work as our Field Correspondent for our summer Public Art Youth Employment program. Shay was our eyes and ears on the ground, visiting all six of our worksites on a regular basis until she became a familiar presence. Shay demonstrated a gift for capturing candid photos and honest interviews. We asked her to reflect on her experiences.

An Unforgettable Summer


Developing my Craft

Capturing photos on a hot, blazing day is a challenge, but the Youth Apprentices and Teaching Artists made the experience fulfilling. The YA’s always took pride in their work, and I loved capturing those moments. Some of them were camera shy, but I never quit until I caught an inspiring, memorable picture. I hope that my subjects might stumble across one of my photos some time in the future and feel proud of what they have accomplished.

The most challenging part of my job for me was finding a photo where all the elements came together. I‘ve discovered that it’s not as easy as it looks. Learning about light source was extremely important, because light has all the power in the photo. Also, when taking group photos, movement is a big challenge — one person may look beautiful in a shot, but the other person has a bad expression or their face is blurring because they moved, and then the whole picture is a loss.

My greatest strength is that I’m confident in myself. I feel like I can accomplish anything I put my mind to. I don’t give up no matter how many times I have to try to get it right. My greatest challenge has been developing time-management skills. I’m not an early bird, but I managed to do fine with a morning schedule.

Getting to know the YA’s and TA’s

Being able to interview so many Youth Apprentices and learn why they enjoyed this program was a beautiful experience for me, because it wasn’t so long ago that I was in their shoes, so they related to me. I remember thinking and feeling many of the same things they were thinking, and I was surprised to realize how much I’ve grown since my days as a YA. The TA’s make learning adventurous and never dull or boring.

I enjoyed working with all the teams, but I’ve only got space to share a few favorite memories. The team at Madison Square Boys & Girls Club had so many funny and clever YA’s. It seemed like all them dedicated their time and energy to some form of personal expression, including all types of drawing and music, and many of them were not afraid to show off their talents. They feel the program has allowed them to let out their creative beast and be more free. I also met YA’s who had no artistic talent, but connected to art in some other way or just felt blessed to have a job that didn’t prior experience but gave them the opportunity to develop skills.

The Jacob Schiff School Gym Wall team had a vibrant energy with very friendly YA’s and Teaching Artists. I loved watching this team do an art exercise similar to musical chairs. When the music started, all the YA’s began drawing something on a giant sheet of paper. When the music stopped, everybody had to rotate to a different spot. When the music came back on, they continued to add on to the previous person’s drawing. In the end, they created a giant piece of communal art. Everyone laughed and joked about the different ways people thought of to add to each other’s drawings.

The Bronx County Family Court team was a more mellow group. I always felt soothing vibes whenever I stepped into their studio. My favorite moment with this team was participating with their breathing exercises — I feel like it relieved so much stress and tension.

Overall, my impression is that all of this summer’s YA’s are extremely smart. Many of them aspire to have their own business and already know what they want in life, which I think is important. I didn’t have that sort of direction when I was a YA. I believe if they continue down the right path, all the 2019 YA’s will have success and prosperity in the future.

This is Shay Epps, 2019 Summer Field Correspondent, signing off.

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