Photography at the Little White House of Hope:

Collaborations between Light Work and P.E.A.C.E. Inc. Westside Family Resource Center.

In August 2009, artist Stephen Mahan arrived at the P.E.A.C.E. Incorporated Westside Family Resource Center (WFRC), also known as the Little White House of Hope, with 20 digital cameras to conduct a workshop for teens about photography, identity and community. What he found there is a unique and vibrant community center run by Mary Alice Smothers and her colleagues. The WFRC is located on Wyoming Street and offers a variety of services and programs to families that live in and around the Near Westside, including employment support, youth activities, advocacy and resource development and education life skills. Their mission is to help people in the community realize their potential for becoming self-sufficient.

Smothers and Mahan made a great team with their combined passion and belief in the strength of the human spirit, as well as their understanding of how creating images of community and identity can foster self esteem, and build awareness and pride in the southwest side's unique and richly diverse community. At the end of the workshop, large-scale digital photographs were installed across the street from the Little White House of Hope on West Street by local business Media Finishings. The exhibition will be up indefinitely, and the hope is that it will continue to grow over time.

The partnership between Mahan and WFRC is also deeply in line with the goals and efforts of the Near Westside Initiative (NWSI), a nonprofit corporation housed at Syracuse University and partnering with the greater Near Westside community. The NWSI, owners of the Case Supply Warehouse, were thrilled to showcase the artwork as public art on the side of the building. "This project has been great on so many levels. It has educated youth, it has encouraged and fostered the arts, and it has beautified a widely visible building in Syracuse, bringing great attention to the Near Westside community, and the residents that live there" says Maarten Jacobs, director of the Near Westside Initiative.

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