My PDH certificate capstone project isn’t like most. I’m not building an interactive map or an archive, and I’m not learning R (thank goodness). Rather, I’m using WordPress as a tool to increase audience and add permanence to what would otherwise be a small, ephemeral project.
Here’s the rundown: In July 2019, I will run a weeklong summer camp, in partnership with the Iowa Youth Writing Project (IWYP). Participants—all of whom will be young women—will talk about body image, explore the function of photography as an art medium, and reflect on their identities. The end result? Each participant will create a “disembodied self portrait” (a photograph that represents her, without her physical presence in the image) and a brief reflection to explain the image. These photographs and reflections (all anonymous) will be featured as a gallery at FilmScene.
Unsurprisingly, many of my concerns aren’t about the digital aspects of this project. While it’s true that I might have to use Adobe Photoshop to crop images, and I am building a WordPress site to house the images in an online gallery, my bigger concerns are things like publicity. How do I get the word out? Luckily, because I’m running it through IYWP, they’ll promote the free camp, and because we’ll hold it at the Iowa City Public Library, their calendar will hopefully also attract potential participants. In addition to that, I’ve reached out to G! World, a local organization that provides support and a safe environment for learning, reflection, and exploration for young girls, particularly young women of color. I’m hoping that between these three outlets, I’ll be able to generate enough interest for my camp.
Right now, my main tasks are twofold:
Task one is to build a lesson plan for the workshop. In my case, it means working backward, thinking through what I want participants to have achieved by the end of the week and determining how they can best reach those goals. It means, again, using other people as resources. IYWP has put me in contact with past camp instructors, who have generously offered their materials for my reference. In case I needed a reminder of how accommodating, generous, and supportive my fellow UI graduate students are, there we go.
Task two is the digital component. As I mentioned, I’m creating a WordPress site to function as an online gallery, so even after the girls have celebrated their artistic excellence and self-reflection through the physical gallery, they’ll still have access to the work they’ve produced. I also hope that the online site can give other people interested in similar projects a framework and reference point, as well as a foundation for a more digitally focused project. Right now, I’m grappling with two big tasks for my website. The first is to determine the look and feel of my site. I am aiming for a minimalist, gallery vibe, and luckily, there are some themes that align with my interests, but part of my task is then to go through the theme options and figure out what I have to sacrifice with each option and which one makes the most sense. Once I have a theme, my next task is to design a sitemap. I want this site to be minimalist with an “about” section and not much else, to reproduce the sensation of being at a gallery. I want the girls’ photographs and words to be the focal point, but I also want to provide enough background and direction that if someone were to reference this site for a future project, they would have the tools they need to build from it. I think this is where the digital component really comes in handy—it gives the project a seemingly endless life and reach, whereas the in-person gallery (though impactful for the audience and empowering for the participants) is short-lived and limited. In short, I need the site to be attractive and clean, but also functional and informative. There’s a balance between modeling from a gallery space and still conveying the appropriate background for those who visit the site without any context.
I’m really excited about where this project will take me. It will give me the space to work with multiple community partners in Iowa City, to engage with a non-university student base through my workshop, and to think about the complexity and opportunities of an in-person project with a digital component.