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Gallery to Showcase Photography of El Puente Students

El Puente Community School students will show their photographs in an exhibition at the Art From Scrap Gallery, above the Art From Scrap Reuse Store at 302 E. Cota St. in downtown Santa Barbara. The show opens Saturday and runs through Jan. 10, with an artists reception from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on the final day.

The exhibition features the photographs of El Puente students, ages 16 to 18, who attended a series of classes with documentary photographer Bob Debris at Art From Scrap. In a two-month period, Debris taught the students basic photography skills, gave them digital point and shoot cameras, and asked them to take photographs of anything that captured their imagination.

“We told them that they have a very special vision of the world,” Debris said, “and it would be great if we could see it.”

Funded by a Next Generation mini-grant, the classes were a collaboration between Art From Scrap, the city of Santa Barbara (in partnership with the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission) and El Puente. Inspired by the guidance of Bonnie Beadles, the project was facilitated by Gloria Sánchez Arreola of Santa Barbara County Education’s Third ACT! Youth Arts Academy, and Holly Mackay, Art From Scrap’s artistic director.

“At first, some of the teenagers were afraid of operating the cameras and didn’t want to take them home,” Sánchez Arreola said. “But Bob got them comfortable enough to use the cameras as a way to document their lives and show what’s really going on for them.”

She said the classes provided “a good outlet for students and helped them to think about their communities. Most importantly, it helped them feel confident about showing their true selves.”

Mackay added: “It’s been a privilege to meet and work with these students. It was awesome and surprising to see how they quietly took control of the project and created some gorgeous images. This show will provide a glimpse into their unique vision. We look forward to working with them again soon.”

Jill Cloutier represents the Art From Scrap Gallery.

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