Tony Rocco receiving a Hispanic Choice Award.

Tony Rocco receiving a Hispanic Choice Award.

On June 13 and 14, from noon – 6 pm, InLiquid presents Art for the Cash Poor 16. This year, Go Mad for Change as InLiquid invites community partners to teach the public about their programming as well as participate in arts-related activities.

The Stetson Shutterbugs are the photography club of Stetson Middle School in North Philadelphia and are part of Photography Without Borders, a photography outreach program that builds bridges between youth in marginalized communities around the world. Executive Director Tony Rocco provides a snapshot of the group’s history in an interview below.

Can you give me a bit of background on The Stetson Shutterbugs?

The Stetson Shutterbugs is an after school program I began in 2010 at John B. Stetson Charter School in North Philadelphia that teaches children how to tell stories and make sense of their world using photography.

What is your role there?

Besides being the founder, Executive Director and Board President of PWB, I also am the instructor for the Shutterbugs. I meet with our 12 students at least once a week and and teach them traditional and Digital photographic techniques as well as helping them use their photos to tell personal, meaningful stories.

The current group of Shutterbugs in their darkroom at Stetson.

The current group of Shutterbugs in their darkroom at Stetson.

What about Photography without Borders? How does that work?

Photography Without Borders (PWB) is a non-profit 501(c)3 collaborative art program designed to engage children around the world in multi-disciplinary learning and photography-based cultural exchanges. The goal is to develop and inspire young leaders by broadening their exposure to educational and cultural experiences outside their borders.

The Shutterbugs program is a component of PWB. We currently have one other active program in Cali, Colombia, that is run by former student Maria Carolina Peña.

I have actually been teaching youth in North Philadelphia and Colombia photography for nearly 20 years. It was only in 2010 that I decided to add the cultural exchange component and connect the independent programs I had been running and form PWB.

The Shutterbugs' first trip to Columbia

The Shutterbugs’ first trip to Columbia

What has been your favorite art project so far to come out of The Shutterbugs?

By far my favorite project is the cultural exchange component of the program, specifically when some of the students actually get to travel to visit their parter’s country and experience another culture firsthand. We all learn from new experiences and it is so rewarding to be able to give potentially life changing experience to these kids that almost never get to leave their neighborhoods.

How did the partnership with InLiquid come about? And what specific projects can we expect to see coming out of that?

I have always been a big fan of InLiquid and was a longtime member. It was an honor to be invited last year to sit on an advisory panel for the Juvenile Justice Program that InLiquid initiated. Being able to sit alongside representatives of InLiquid and other prominent organizations working towards similar goals helped reinforce my belief that it is only by forming partnerships and working together that true change can happen.

Do you think it’s important for arts organizations to open themselves up to community outreach programs?

One of the biggest tragedies of our public education funding crisis in Philadelphia is its effect on Arts education. When faced with tough budget decisions, school administrators have been drastically cutting Art programs in our public schools. Arts organizations can help fill in these gaps by reaching out to the schools directly or through community outreach programs like PWB.

Shutterbugs at AFCP a couple years ago.

Shutterbugs at AFCP a couple years ago.

What are you looking forward to most about participating in Art for the Cash Poor?

We will also be participating in Art For The Cash Poor for the 2nd time this year. It is a great opportunity for us to interact with others in the Art community and it gives our students the chance to talk to others about their work and get exposed to other artists of different disciplines.

To support the Shutterbugs, visit their Kickstarter campaign at the link. They are working on raising funds for a cultural exchange program in Columbia.

The weekend-long fair invites attendees to navigate the Crane Arts space, which will be bursting with art vendors, live musical performances, culinary curiosities, and an outdoor beer garden. The addition of a Friday night ticketed preview party on June 12, 5:30 – 9 pm, serves as a meet-and-greet with the artists and a fundraiser for AIDS Fund, offering guests an exclusive sneak-peek at the festivities to follow. More details, including a full list of bands and participating artists, at the link.

Jennifer Lipman-Bartel

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