âBut We Keep Going,â the senior portrait series from Paul Robeson High School, was celebrated on the evening of June 17 with a screening event on the Drexel University City campus produced by Welsh, the deputy principal of the Writers Room Patrice Worthy, Pearlstein Gallery Exhibitions and Programs Coordinator. Leah Appleton and Greenhouse Media.
Photos of the event by Charles Shan Cerrone.
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Although the pandemic forced 2021 graduates of Paul Robeson High School in West Philadelphia to spend most of their senior year apart, help from friends at Drexel University Writers’ room meant to cap graduation with an opportunity to feel larger than life.
Thirty-one seniors were photographed as part of TRIPOD, the Writers Room intergenerational storytelling program supported by Canon Solutions America. These images and the students’ thoughts on the pandemic and their future were shared online, on social networks, and in real life, screened on the Nesbitt Hall side of University City Campus at 33rd and the streets of the market on June 17th. The exhibition was named But we continue.
Some of the senior Writers Room artists and supporters and the management of Paul Robeson were in attendance to see the likeness of these students stand seven stories tall and share kind words about the opportunity that arose due to the perceived need. and artistic ingenuity.
Devin Welsh, BA English ’20, led the exhibition as part of his position as ArtistYear AmeriCorps Fellow working at Paul Robeson High School. ArtistYear supports scholarship recipients in New York City, Philadelphia, North Carolina, and Colorado, and aims to “bring artistic equity to public schools in economically troubled neighborhoods that would otherwise not have an arts program,” Welsh explained.
He said that the idea of But we continue was born in a virtual meeting at the end of 2020 when the Robeson seniors involved in TRIPOD were talking about the difficulties of distance learning and all the rites of passage they were missing due to the pandemic – including their senior portraits.
“Rachel [Wenrick, director of Writers Room and associate teaching professor of English in the College of Arts and Sciences] Private messaged me on Zoom and said, “I think we can do something over there.” So we went around to see what was possible, âWelsh said. âIt was really about celebrating them. â¦ They’ve had such a short year as a senior, and 2020 hasn’t been a great year for them as a junior either. So they faced that and sort of took their entire senior year. “
Although the 2021 class at Robeson High School had their portraits and even an in-person graduation ceremony, the But we continue The project and the June 17 exhibition highlighted the important connection between the university and the community established by programs like Writers Room. Richard Gordon IV, Principal of Paul Robeson High School, addressed the assembled crowd at the screening event and thanked attendees for not only shining a light on the students, but providing them with a access and an opportunity to learn, grow and show their passions through TRIPOD.
âIt’s very important for us to connect with the resources in the community,â Gordon said. âWhat this has allowed us to do is personalize learning for our students and ensure that every student who enters our building is engaged in one way or another. â¦ What the Writers Room did really impacted individual passions and motivated students to want to take a look at professions they often considered out of reach. Writers Room made them see that it is within reach, that they can make all the dreams they have for themselves come true.
One example is Dejah McIntosh, 20, of West Philadelphia and a 2019 graduate of Paul Robeson High School. She has been involved with Writers Room and TRIPOD for several years, and was the talent behind the camera for most of the portraits featured in But we continue. She said she was happy to help shine the spotlight on Class 2021 and showcase her own work as well.
âAs a Robeson student, I just know this has been a really tough year for them,â McIntosh explained. âI was like, ‘I kind of want to take pictures of everyone. Can that be a thing? ‘ And that turned out to be one thing and I was just there to help. I had a great time filming everyone. Everyone was really nice about it.
But we continue was also created in collaboration with the Philadelphia Center for the Photographic Arts and the Pearlstein Gallery at Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, and supported by AmeriCorps, the Philadelphia Cultural Fund and the Pennoni Honors College.
Below are photos from the June 17 event and a selection of portraits and quotes from the exhibition. You can see the entire But we continue portrait series on the Writers Room website.