A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Purple People Bridge hosts student ‘Fusion’ photography show through August 14

At a time when many art galleries are closed because of COVID-19, the Purple People Bridge has become an outdoor art exhibit this summer, displaying photographs from 20 young artists who are students at Holmes Middle and High School in Covington, Gray Middle School in Union, and interns from the NKY MakerSpace at the Ignite Institute in Kenton County.

The students are participants in i.imagine, a photography-based education nonprofit that provides after-school programs, summer camps, and special community-driven projects for students in grades 6 through 12.

“We teach kids how to be great photographers – technically and artistically – and tell their stories through their photographs as a form of self-expression,” said Shannon Eggleston, founder and executive director of i.imagine. “We want every photo they take and display to have a story behind it and for that child to be able to tell that story. For a lot of kids, this is a great way for them to discover themselves.”

The students’ photography originally was scheduled to be part of an exhibit during the FotoFocus 2020 Biennial, one of the largest photography and lens-based events in the United States. The month-long event is held every two years in October and usually attracts about 150,000 people to nearly 100 museums, galleries, and other art venues throughout the Greater Cincinnati area. Unfortunately, this year’s event was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“FotoFocus is a long-time partner of our organization and it provided us with a grant to serve as a venue host during the upcoming Biennial, so you can imagine how disappointed our kids were and we were when we learned that the event would be canceled because of COVID-19,” Eggleston said.

She said that i.imagine also usually holds an exhibit of student art each spring, but like the FotoFocus event, this event also was canceled because of the coronavirus.

“We’ve been continuing our programs this summer with online classes using Zoom, but you could tell by interacting with these kids that they needed something right now; they were unmotivated and it was hard to get them to smile,” she said.

A silver lining in this dark cloud came when the FotoFocus told i.imagine that the nonprofit could keep its grant and use it in any way the organization saw fit. That’s when Eggleston decided to use the grant to fund a student-art exhibit on the Purple People Bridge, which is called “Fusion.”

“We did a ‘call of artists’ for the exhibit with students currently in our program or those who have participated in it in the past,” she said. Eggleston and Katie Threet, the art teacher at Holmes, actually visited the homes of some students who could not participate in online classes to personally invite them to participate in the exhibit.

“We decided to use the ‘fusion’ theme as a way for them to see the beauty that’s created when two things come together to create one,” she said. “Fusion means many different things to these kids and it’s amazing to see their different perspectives and their ability to find beauty and meaning in the places they are living during this pandemic.”

The result is 20 captivating photographs printed on aluminum plates with a UV resistant chemical so they hold up to the sun and inclement weather. They also have photos of the artists and information about their backgrounds and personal views and you can scan a QR code for an up-close and personal video visit with each of the photographers. The artwork is attached to trusses on the west side of the structure, running from the Kentucky side to the Ohio side of the bridge.

The artwork will remain on the bridge through Aug. 14. When the exhibit is over, the kids will get to keep the plates with their photography. “They will be a symbol of their success that they can hang on their walls,” Eggleston said.

i.imagine serves approximately 100 middle- and high-school students each year. The nonprofit has about 50 DLR camera kits that it lends to students each year “to teach the kids how to care for the cameras and how to use them,” Eggleston said. The organization also holds a one-week summer camp at the NKY MakerSpace at the Ignite Institute, but the camp was canceled this year because of COVID-19.

Every month, an average of 71,000 people run, walk, bike, and skate across the Purple People Bridge. The bridge is owned and operated by the Newport Southbank Bridge Company, a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that operates and maintains the bridge.

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One Comment

  1. Thank you NKY Tribune for running this article! Every time we get our name out in the community, we grow and strengthen! On behalf of i.imagine staff and students, WE FEEL THE LOVE!!!!

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