Isaac, Dakota, Rashawn, Annie. These are just a few of the incredible youth who make up the Humans of Safe Zone. Creativity clicked as Safe Zone youth worked with COMPAS artist Media Mike Hazard to show us the world through their lens. Thanks, Media Mike, for putting together this photo blog!
I spent eight, two-hour sessions at Safe Zone this past fall, as artist in residence. I helped people make pictures and I made pictures myself. I brought books of photographs to look at. Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton was a big hit.
The pictures we made compose a portrait we might call Humans of Safe Zone.
All photos by Media Mike unless otherwise noted. Photos used with permission.
Isaac loves cameras. He clicked more than anyone at Safe Zone, including yours truly. He learned the rules and followed them pretty well: don’t drop it, keep it clean and dry, and don’t poke your finger in the eye of the camera which is called the lens.
Annie was a star during my work at Safe Zone. She was thrilled by the chance to use a camera and clicked for two hours. “My boyfriend is a photographer so I want to learn more about photography.”
“I like all types of anime. I want to go to Japan for a year. I wish I had my drawings here so I could show you.”
On looking at the book, Humans of New York: “There are some very strange people in New York. Have you been there? They are so freaking interesting.”
Dakota posed with his guitar. “This guitar is my life. My grampa gave it to me. I will never ever sell it.” He listens to Linkin Park, In the End.
Josh makes high hop, electronic music. “I lost a lot of stuff when I moved.”
He needs a MacBook Pro to get back into the music. Nurse Judy tried to think of ways he might get a new, used computer. She suggested a website called Let Go. He found the site on his cell phone.
Josh wanted to vote on Election Day. He has a Texas ID, a New York state license, he is from California and he is here now. All his neighbors are Hmong. We figured it out.
“All the stress in the world can be out there, but it is safe at Safe Zone. Moments you can feel a tension in the air. Right now, it is very chill.”
John has worked at Safe Zone for four years. He was there to counsel about HIV. No one was the least bit interested that day, so he just floated around the place in a zone. He read a story to Isaac. He gave advice about voting to a client. I followed his example. We made ourselves useful.
“Deja like déjà vu” was just hanging out, listening to music.
Quietly, I asked if it was OK to make a picture. “Sure.”
I showed it to her. Smile. I thanked her. It’s an image that is common at Safe Zone, where youth feel safe enough to nap.
A Halloween party presented a few eye-popping photo opps. Clicks clicked themselves. Food is served every day. On Halloween, King Lawayne served it up.
Safe Zone is all about finding jobs and housing for clients. Lawayne helped Paul write his resume. Paul typed faster than anyone I have ever seen. Lawayne advised Paul to add that skill to his resume.
Tutor Laura Angyal enjoyed Isaac’s camera work. Laura taught in St. Paul Public Schools until she suffered a stroke that made working in a daily classroom too stressful. She tutors Safe Zone clients with their homework and anything else that might come up.
Paul is an intern at Safe Zone. He took an interest every day, looking at books and making pictures. I photographed Paul photographing Roshanda. We looked at the first click. She was turned awkwardly. We agreed another with her straight on would be best. What a smile! We looked, and we all smiled.
Cora works at Safe Zone. She’s getting married on New Year’s Eve. She tells me, “You have to wait for the youth to come to you. Let them gravitate to you.” True, I learned.
The project was rewarding and illuminating, as soon as I learned how to fit in and be useful. The relationships which began to develop were resulting in more creative engagements. Alas, between the come and go nature of Safe Zone life, and the shortness of the time, it was over all too soon.
~ By COMPAS teaching artist Media Mike Hazard
Safe Zone is a program of Face to Face. It is a place for youth to go in downtown St. Paul, MN when they need health care, counseling for jobs or housing, or just a safe place to hang out and get a plate of free food. More than 3,000 homeless or at-risk youth are helped annually.
COMPAS' partnership with Face to Face connects youth with the power of creativity as they build confidence and community. Check out our Creative Community programs for more information.
Thank you to donors like you who make it possible for the humans of Safe Zone to use the power of creativity to share their stories. A special thank you to the Minnesota State Arts Board Partners in Arts Participation program and the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation.