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New public art installation features city schools

Features large-scale, digital photographs by Syracuse City School District students

"The Best Part of Us," an installation of large-scale digital photographs by Syracuse City School District (SCSD) students from the Franklin Magnet School of the Arts and Fowler and Nottingham high schools, was recently mounted on the exterior of the Case Supply Building, 601 W. Fayette St., Syracuse. The installation, which was created and curated by photographer Stephen Mahan and sponsored by the Near Westside Initiative, can be viewed best by traveling north on West Street between Onondaga and West Fayette streets.

"The Best Part of Us" consists of 10 photographs, each measuring 48 x 64 inches, that are printed on vinyl and mounted with a protective covering. Organizers plan for additional photographs to be installed in September.

Mahan, who is also an instructor of art photography in the Department of Transmedia in Syracuse University's College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA), believes that photography "levels the playing field" for students of every age and that handing them a camera and asking them to photograph themselves as well as their school community, families, and hopes and dreams fosters literacy and self-esteem and promotes tolerance and understanding in an increasingly diverse urban community.

"My interest is not so much teaching photography to kids--it is in sitting down and listening to what they have to say, building trust, letting them realize they have an amazing story to share, convincing them that others are interested in their story and using the camera as a tool to start the storytelling process," says Mahan. "What the camera does is allow all kids equality in our project in the school environment. People have learning differences, and using the camera greatly diminishes or eliminates any of these differences. I know that our schools are filled with brilliant and creative kids who think they are not; it is my job to give them the tools to realize that they are."

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