After the Art Party, before summer programs begin, we don’t have youth programs, but the Studio is just as busy as ever. Grant reports are being submitted, art supplies are being inventoried and restocked, and Owen is hunkered down in the basement as he wraps up his final duties before his last day as our Studio Organizer.
After taking a quick second to brew some coffee for a mid-afternoon boost, we take a step outside for a break from work. Taking the moment to have what’ll be a heartwarming chat with a very good friend of our’s.
NUA: So tell us, Owen, when did you start at NUA, how did you hear about it, and what media did you start with?
O: Photography. I had a camera, and I was doing film. My father taught me—he was a police officer who did crime scene photography. As a kid, I would visit the police department’s darkroom on the weekends and learn how to develop prints. And then my grandfather did photography when he was younger, and I got to learn about the lab with him.
But I was sad when I got to high school because I couldn’t really go to the police station anymore, because I was getting older, and you weren’t really supposed to be doing that anyways. I enjoyed photography, but it didn’t seem like it was something I could keep doing. But then some friends introduced me to New Urban Arts, which was just around the corner from Youth Pride, and I was just amazed that it was all free.
NUA: Of course!
O: I really appreciated what it had to offer, and it helped give me piece of mind and balance. That’s when I met Tamara—because she’s a nice person. Not because she wanted something or was trying to get you to do something.
But I do like to paint and draw and do some illustrations.
NUA: Do you still keep up with it?
O: Well I got into doing work for other people, but that took the whole fun out of it, so then I pulled back and did it for myself more. But the whole process of spending all the hours in the darkroom…it’s really hard to make time for it. And then digital photography and Instagram, at first I liked it, but the shape and design, and the comments and energy were just too much. I needed a break, so I just disabled my account.
NUA: Absolutely. It can kind’ve get to be a lot.
O: Yeah, I mean, I’m the designated photographer for the family. They’re usually like “Oh, it’s Owen just doing his thing.” And I want to revisit some old pictures; I have a negative scanner I don’t even use that much, but I’m planning to. I’ll probably go to AS220 darkroom at some point once I get organized and know what I’m doing.
Anyway! I went through this whole rollercoaster with it, and I realized that I needed to personalize it, and that I have to reconsider how I share.
So do I still do it? Yes. But in a different capacity.
NUA: Wow, you’ve thought a great deal about what photography means to you and how that’s changed. Can you speak to what NUA means to you, and how you think it’s changed?
O: I’m in a different viewpoint than what I was. As a student, it’s like, “Wow, this place is magical, and cool, and people are doing cool stuff.” Now, being at this place and working in this environment has been a treasure. It’s giving back, and getting to see our students experience it.
As for whether it’s it changed? Yes. It’s definitely expanded. It’s definitely offering more. But it’s still the same: it’s a sanctuary from all the other pressures, stressors, work, family.
NUA: So what’s your favorite part of the studio?
O: The storage basement. It’s a place that’s just full of stuff—stuff that we didn’t even need to purchase that has just come from the years of donations. Organizing that whole basement and taking care of it—getting to take care of that community aspect—was my way to give back.
NUA: What do you see for NUA?
O: It’s great to have consistency and good people, but it’s also good to have different good people. Sometimes you stick around too long and you get stuck in your ways, and you get stuck in patterns. Expansion, but not for expansion’s sake.
NUA: Sage words, Owen. Thank you so much for this. Any final words, thoughts, or feelings?
O: NUA is a place that has the ability to bring out the light in your soul. I’m excited for other people to take advantage of the studio and appreciate it like I do. I’m happy to share. That way, other people can have the chance to return the favor.
Owen began his first semester at RIC last month as a part-time student in their MSW program. His hope is to receive his Masters degree in Social Work within two years so he can continue to focus his career on giving back to our communities.