Youth, Police Team Up For Art

VisionWorks participants and supporters gather together at Annapolis City Hall with Mayor Gavin Buckley to celebrate the project’s success. Photo: Noah Hale.

By Noah Hale

On Monday, local youth and police officers met at City Hall in Annapolis, not for a confrontation, but for an art reception.

The reception, sponsored by the Annapolis Police Foundation, celebrated an exhibit by an Annapolis-based nonprofit called VisionWorkshops. This specific photography project aimed to build trust and positive relationships between youth and law enforcement in Annapolis and bring them closer together through art.

Over the course of multiple sessions in this pilot program, APD officers and youth were given cameras and were instructed on how to operate them with the goal of getting the perfect photo. But perhaps more importantly, these were opportunities for the two to learn about each other.

         “I think that we really succeeded in starting a conversation,” said Kirsten Elstner, founder and director of VisionWorkshops. “We didn’t really know what was going to happen. It [the conversation] was risky. But I said, ‘What’s the alternative?’” The project was funded by the Governor’s Office of Crime Prevention, Youth and Victim Services and in part by the Charles Crane Family Foundation.

         The resulting exhibit, titled The Other Side of the Curb, features a few dozen framed portraits, many captured in public places, accompanied by two written pieces. One is penned by an officer and the other by a student. The writings reveal the sensitive sides of both—each displaying sympathy for each other and an understanding of each other. Some duos bonded over tattoos while others bonded over similar upbringings and difficulties in life.

“Every conversation Meko and I have, I feel that we’re bonding. We both have opened up to each other. We continue to share some meaningful events in our lives that have shaped us into who we are,” writes Lt. Kevin Krauss.

         Despite the display of sensitive subjects, the reception was filled with positivity.

“When communities and police work together, our communities become stronger and safer,” said Kunle Adeyemo, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Crime Prevention, Youth and Victim Services. “The Hogan administration is proud to support this important program and we will continue to fund initiatives like it around Maryland.”

         The exhibit will be on display at City Hall until July 31 and is free and open to the public.