For the first time, the Smithsonian Institution provided a platform for students with disabilities to share their own artwork at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in a two-week multimedia summer program.
The “All Access Digital Arts Camp” was an opportunity for teens in the DC area to create a short film about an exhibit of their choice. Topics ranged from civil rights at the National Museum of American History, to the documentation of mammals and prehistoric life at the Museum of Natural History. In the process of making these films, the students rose to a variety of challenges with enthusiasm and confidence. They learned how to utilize complex editing software, and also acquired skills in public speaking, photography, online research, and digital documentation.
Week One: Making Social Challenges Work
During the mornings of week one, teens participated in “community activities” such as visiting a museum, playing scavenger hunts, and photo-documenting these activities. In the afternoons, they took part in social challenges that emphasized joining and working with groups, sharing work they produced, and reflecting to each other, their observations.
Week Two: Media Production
Week Two continued the pattern of morning community activities and afternoon social challenges, with an emphasis on building on week one’s work, trying out critiquing and critical analysis, and public presentation.
An essential component of the camp involved social development. Students built a strong sense of community, made friends, and connected with one another using Facebook and e-mail. Throughout the two-week session, they learned how technology, ideas, and friendship are connected in a variety of ways, and how to use digital devices to build their own social network around people they share similarities with. The camp came to a close with a moving film premier at the Marion and Gustave Ring Auditorium, where families and friends were able to celebrate the success of each student’s work.