Thursday, January 22, 2015

Aerial Tactic + GSM Creative = Success

Teen Leaders in the Arts is an exciting new program at GAAH’s Cook Arts Center. Inspired by the youth driven spaces model of programming practiced by The Neutral Zone in Ann Arbor, the Teen Leaders program engages neighborhood teens in programs that celebrate and encourage autonomy and decision-making about their activities.

The program was launched last summer when a committee of teens, under the guidance of program director Steffanie Rosalez, met to define four main areas on which the program would focus: creative expression, work experience, community service, and travel. One of the resultant creative projects was the production of a promotional video featuring GAAH’s award-winning breakdance crew, Aerial Tactic.

Aerial Tactic was formed in 2012 by three members of a Cook Arts Center breakdance class taught by Brian Urbane, head of the crew 61Syx Technique. Antonio, Ignacio, and Edgar were so taken with breakdancing that they began choreographing routines of their own. The boys soon decided to form their own crew. They chose a name, selected a logo, and recruited Carlos, Noe, and Danny to the group.

When the opportunity arose for a creative project through the Teen Leaders program, several members of Aerial Tactic decided on a promotional video. About this time GSM Creative directors Matthew Lohr and Steve Wygmans were looking for ways to expand their business. Steffanie facilitated a meeting between Aerial Tactic and GSM Creative to discuss the possibility of working together, and a creative project was born.

Last September Aerial Tactic spent an entire Saturday afternoon in the GSM Creative studio. After an hour of filming, the teens provided input and learned editing techniques. The group agrees that the biggest challenge was finding the right music for the project. Because each dancer has his own style, the team wanted to portray each person’s specific talent. They found inspiration in the idea of “glitching” between scenes to unify the piece.

The collaboration proved to be a unique, exciting, educational project for both the breakdancers and GSM Creative. The members of Aerial Tactic were inspired to improve their moves, and the video turned out to be far better than they could have imagined. One of the members of the crew summed it up this way: “GMS Creative took a cake and added frosting to it.”

Antonio, Ignacio, Edgar, Carlos, Noe, and Danny invite you to view their video:

The final product

Aerial Tactic + GSM Studios

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Teen Leaders Partner with GR Forward

On December 16, GAAH’s Teen Leaders in the Arts held a successful meeting in collaboration with GR Forward to engage neighborhood residents in developing a vision for Downtown and the Grand River.

Despite their previous efforts to involve the Grandville Avenue neighborhood (also known as the Roosevelt Park neighborhood) in the process, Jay Steffen, Assistant Planning Director at the City of Grand Rapids, said the turnout for the first meeting on December 2 was not what they had hoped. Our Teen Leaders saw this as an opportunity to inspire their peers, family and friends to be a part of the process.

Cook Arts Center Program Director Steffanie Rosalez, the Teen Leaders, and professionals from GR Forward collaborated to create an exciting buzz around the meeting and provide information-packed workshops and activities for residents of various ages from a variety of backgrounds. As a result, more than 120 people, including Cook Library Scholars, Achievers, students from Schools of Hope and their parents, filled the Cook Library Center that Tuesday. Library Director Sue Garza and her staff juggled people in groups throughout the packed facility, and consensus is that the event was a resounding success.

The main activity led by the teens was an invitation-making session. Children were asked to create informational flyers for their families written in both English and Spanish. To accomplish this, teens had to not only understand the purpose, scope and meaning behind the work of GR Forward, but also communicate that message to the children in order to engage them. They distributed the colorful invitations to their families in hopes that they would encourage an equal amount of participation at the next meeting on January 8. What’s more, the teens were invited to the city planning office to help shape the future conversation. This motivated them to spend many hours taking photographs, working on scripts for a WOODTV 8 story in which they were featured, writing an article for The Rapidian, and creating flyers. In this partnership, they will continue to be an integral part of the work done in the Roosevelt Park neighborhood.

During the same time as the youth workshops, an information session with the adults was led by multiple leaders from GR Forward. The meeting began with a short breakdance performance by three teens from Aerial Tactic, Antonio, Carlos, and Danny. The main material, translated by staff members Javier and Monica, touched on concepts such as attracting business, drawing talent, maximizing the asset of the Grand River, and creating jobs. The solution presented, to remove the dams to restore the river, was explained as a way to build recreational activities, improve the habitat, promote better water quality, enhance aesthetics, create economic opportunities, enrich underserved communities, and instill stewardship of the natural habitat within the citizens.

The presenter then showed a concept plan and asked for suggestions about how to connect the river with trails, create walkable streets, fix parking issues, and make the city a more livable, walkable place for all residents. Attendees were encouraged to remain involved in the conversation for the next seven months by attending public meetings, participating in surveys, and voicing their opinions. After the formal presentation, the families participated in visual activities gathering this feedback. Participants were eager to share their ideas and visions for downtown Grand Rapids.

As a result of this overwhelmingly positive experience with GR Forward, it is GAAH’s hope that the families in the Grandville Avenue neighborhood will continue to dialog about building a vision for the future of the city together. It is only with the participation of people from all parts of the city that groups like GR Forward can be sure to shape a more interconnected, inclusive, functional place for all residents to enjoy.