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UofL students help empower kids in Panama

by UofL Today last modified Jun 08, 2010 08:25 AM

University of Louisville fine arts associate professor Mary Carothers and three students are joining with filmmaker Anayansi Prado this month on a project to empower kids through photography, provide them with skills they can use in the future and help them reconnect to their past.

UofL students help empower kids in Panama

Students took photos of the town on the first day.

The project - Empower to Impacto - combines the essence of past work Carothers' students have done with underprivileged children in Louisville with Prado's Impacto program, which uses hands-on training in photography, filmmaking and digital media to empower rural Latin American youths.

Through June 20, Carothers, Nicholas Linares, Samantha Grose and Rosslyn Steinmetz will work with 12 children on the island of Bocas del Toro, Panama.

The children will take classes at Smithsonian Research Station four days a week and use their new skills to document their world.

UofL's Latin American and Latino Studies program is co-sponsoring the joint effort. It originated when Prado, who was on campus to give the 2009 Minx Auerbach Lecture, invited Rhonda Buchanan, LALS director and Spanish professor, to provide interns for the Impact project.

When Buchanan met Carothers in the fall, "things really came together," Buchanan said, and the photography professor agreed to train the three interns in her spring class.

LALS also is providing financial support through a Lewis fellowship  and scholarships for Carothers, Linares and Steinmetz; Grose received support from a Lilialyce Akers Travel/Research award.

Bocas del Toro is a province on Panama’s Caribbean side, near the Costa Rica border. It includes a forested inland area, a lengthy strip of coastline and the Bocas del Toro archipelago. The 80,000-plus people are primarily of indigenous tribes and many live in small, isolated villages.

At the same time, according to the Impacto website, the area is becoming a destination for ecotourists. Young people are leaving their villages to work in the tourism industry, and older people feel they will lose their traditional culture.

"By exposing indigenous youth to visual arts and digital media as tools for archiving their own traditions, they will have an opportunity to reconnect with their culture," the Impacto site says. They'll also learn skills they can use to help contribute to economic growth in their areas.

Participants in the project will produce a photographic exhibit that will be showcased at the Panamanian Institute of Tourism and at UofL’s Hite Art Institute, Carothers said. The photographs will become a part of the UofL Photographic Archives' permanent collection for instruction and research purposes.

Victor Mares, who collaborates with Prado, will direct the project.
The Impact Exhibit will be on display in Gallery X of Schneider Hall on Belknap Campus beginning in October, with a grand opening lecture and reception scheduled Nov. 3.

In the meantime, you can check their progress daily on their Facebook page.

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