Palmetto project melds past and present

Thu, 05/14/2009 - 3:16pm
By: Ben Nelms

More than a dozen Palmetto youngsters May 9 got their first look at digital cameras they will use as part of the 2009 Palmetto Cultural Arts Project, a two-year effort that will combine photography with training they will receive to catalogue many of the oral histories provided by local residents. Funding for the project, entitled “Our Lives, Our Land, Our Legacy” came from a grant from Fulton County Arts Council (FCAC) and its partnership with the city of Palmetto.

The project began in early May and will run through June. During that time the youngsters will be instructed on camera use, photograph the Founder’s Day events, gain instruction from representatives of Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAHGS) on interviewing and collecting oral histories of city residents and presenting their work in a public exhibition June 27 and 28 at Palmetto Community Center.

Commenting on the project and its beginnings, Project Coordinator Marjorie Morrow said what started out as a casual conversation last fall with Palmetto Councilwoman Lorraine Allen has become an amazing collaboration between children, parents, area schools, the business community, city staff, local elected officials and the county government.

“This is a project jointly funded by the Fulton County Arts Council and the City of Palmetto. This project grew out of my desire to attempt to connect our youth with their community through the cultural arts. Hopefully, this experience will help to generate a different perspective for our young people, and help to forge a genuine sense of pride in their community,” Morrow said. “Early on in this process, I recognized the fact that this is not just about photography for our children. This is about creating relationships. This is about bringing together people. This is about putting aside our differences, whether they be racial, social, economic, generational or political. This is about realizing that a relatively small investment of time and money can result in huge dividends for us all. And, when all is said and done, this is about building a better community.”

As much as anything, said Morrow, the cultural arts project is designed to encourage the young participants to “think outside the box” as it relates to the city where they live. We will encourage them to delve into Palmetto’s past, to gain a greater appreciation for its history. At the same time, our goal is to help them achieve a greater respect for the Palmetto of today, Morrow explained.

Allen, too, sees the project as one that combines the inquisitive nature of a child with the need to catalogue the various facets of the city’s cultural history through a melding of artistic expression. Such endeavors, she said, can have far-reaching results in the lives of those young people who participate in the project.

“With diversity as a module, I believe all youth should be allowed an opportunity to develop and realize their potential. Recognizing some youth are athletically inclined while others gravitate to the Arts, avenues were researched which could “open the door” for those youth with artistic leanings,” Allen said. “As a starting point, FCAC became that opportunity. Envisioning a cultural arts council as well as an athletic/recreation council to be established in our city, I find it is an absolute necessity that we do all we can for the future generation. It is my belief that by implementing positive programs, we begin to develop positive men and women. To this end, I feel charged with the responsibility of fostering meaningful projects through Cultural Arts. This undertaking, although still in a germinating mode, has the merit of achieving a most desirable outcome.”

The meeting room at Palmetto Community Center May 9 was populated not only by the instructors and the boys and girls receiving the training, but also by a large group of parents interested in taking part in the knowledge their children will acquire.

“I am so inspired by the enthusiasm and excitement of the children participating in this project. This is a project that could involve children in our community, regardless of their athletic ability, academic standing, or social affiliations. The phenomenal parental interest, involvement and support has been heartwarming,” Morrow said. ”I am thankful for the vision and the opportunity to bring this project to fruition. I am humbled by the kind hearts and willing spirits of those who have shared their time and talents. I am awed by the willingness of those who embraced this project, with no expectation or requirement of compensation or reward. I know we are all proud to see the ripe, sweet fruits of our labors.”

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