Amber Rivera never thought college was in her future — until she enrolled in the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center’s teen program. Now, she’s a senior at the University of the Arts studying photography.
“If [college] is what you want, we are going to get you there,” said Josh Brilliant, a 2008 Temple film and media arts alumnus and the center’s education coordinator.
Brilliant is one of two alumni working at the center on American Street near Master. PPAC is a nonprofit that encourages the study and practice of photography in Philadelphia through educational opportunities for people of all skill levels.
Juliette Cook, a 1992 painting alumna and the development director at PPAC, wrote a proposal for a $20,000 grant that the center received from The National Endowment for the Arts last month. The grant was matched by funding from the Lynne and Harold Honickman Foundation.
Brilliant writes the curriculum for the teen program and runs it with the help of two teaching assistants.
About 75 students meet at the center Monday through Thursday for the program, which is free and open to any student at a public school in Philadelphia. Participants learn the basics of photography and are provided equipment to do their own work.
Brilliant said he takes the time to meet each student and learn about their interest in photography and art.
“I feel like I give as much as I can, but [the students] give so much more back,” Brilliant said. “To see what they are coming up with and the creativity and the way they are thinking about pictures makes the whole day worth so much.”
Cook said she focuses on fundraising and the growth of PPAC through grant-writing and “conveying the organization’s potential to funders, press and stakeholders.”
“It involves telling the stories of the individuals that we impact,” Cook said. “Just sort of showing that when someone supports the organization that it’s really making a difference in people’s lives and telling the story of how art can make a difference.”
The grant will support a month-long residency program at the center for three artists.
“The grant is very impactful on many levels,” Cook said. “When other funders see that we are funded by The National Endowment of the Arts, it’s kind of a seal of approval. It’s a way that we can go to a funder and say, ‘We just got half of what we need to do this amazing program, and the National Endowment for the Arts is supporting it. Will you bring the other half to the table?’”
Brilliant and Cook said they both recognize the power of education and photography, and Temple shaped them into the artists and educators they are today.
“The diversity that is offered there is really outstanding,” Brilliant said. “For me, getting that access to all these different perspectives and learning more about everybody’s different worldviews and cultures really shaped me in a way that I honestly wasn’t expecting when going there.”
Cook said interacting with her peers at an institution like the Tyler School of Art showed her that creating art is a “collaborative experience.”
“The experience of art is something that happens between at least two people, between the maker and the viewer or the person experience,” Cook said. “You have to know how to communicate and collaborate.”
Adriana Imhof can be reached at email@example.com.