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NPR Arts & Life

Digital Media Program Creates 'Ambition'

Charlotte Arts Journalism Alliance

In past several months, Uniq Ishman has discovered something about herself.

“I like to take pictures,” she says. “I like to look at things up close and make it look pretty."
Ishman is junior at Harding Univeristy High School and for the past 10 weeks she has been a part of the Arts and Science Council’s new program called Studio345. It aims to keep kids in school by engaging them in the arts. 

“It’s like - I’m excited to come,” Ishman says. “During the school day I’m not saying I’m more focused on this other than school, but it’s something to look forward to.”

The program recruits high school students with an interest in digital media or who are at risk of not graduating and offers them free classes in video, photography or music production.

Students work with Macbook Pros, Photoshop, a green screen, and a recording studio.

Last week, the students of the inaugural class presented their work in a reception outside the studios in Spirit Square in Uptown Charlotte.

Ishman’s photography class created a project that they later turned into a mural in NoDa, video classes made short documentaries and animations, and some students wrote and produced their own music videos. 

“And these kids like that, as any child would, like to be awarded and applauded for what they do,” says Bill Strickand, the founder of Manchester Bidwell Corporation, a Pittsburgh-based arts school that provided the inspiration for Studio345. “And when you start to feel success you want to behave in a successful way so that you get more accolades and more praise. So that becomes a culture pattern and that’s how kids get re-engaged in school."

Ninety-six percent of students enrolled in the Manchester Bidwell Corporation programs graduate from high school and 89 percent of those enrolled go on to higher education.

Strickland believes that by combining top quality facilities, trust, and the right mentors, an arts program can tap into creative potential that can often be missed with traditional education.

“I like this place it helps me to open up myself more,” says Heaven Sherman who came to the project because of her interest in music production. “Everybody is polite and I just think this is a really good experience for me.”

She is scheduled to graduate in January, after which she plans to study Communications at CPCC.

Program coordinators hope that many students of Studio345 will find themselves in a similar situation to Heaven’s, ending a course with them, and beginning a course in higher education.

This story was produced as part of the Charlotte Arts Journalism Alliance. CAJA and UNC Charlotte are sponsoring an arts journalism conference on Jan. 12. The cost is $35 for the general public; $15 for students. Click here for more information.