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Blugolds and area 6th graders share inspiring stories: Humans of the Chippewa Valley

| Denise Olson

The project, Humans of the Chippewa Valley, was created in the Spring of 2016,  as a student-faculty collaboration between the Department of Art & Design and DeLong Middle School in Eau Claire. Associate professor Wanrudee Buranakorn worked with three student photographers, Lily Anderson, Amanda Thao and Elly West, on the ambitious interdisciplinary project.  One hundred Delong 6th graders researched, interviewed, and wrote stories featuring 53 community members, each with remarkable stories to share, while the three Blugolds photographed these locals though out the semester.  The project culminated with an exhibition on May 23 at the DeLong Middle School in Eau Claire.

Student photographer Elly West, senior photography major, offered the following reflection about the research experience on behalf of the three Blugolds:

Being a photographer for this research project was a thrilling experience. We learned how to connect with potential subjects and practice the skill of time management between scheduling shoots, work and class. We also learned how to use a portable lighting kit, to make sure that there would be enough light to photograph the subjects.  For Lily and myself as Bachelor of Fine Art photography majors, this experience helped us prepare for possible lighting scenarios for future clients or jobs.  Though each of us photographers typically prefer to work alone on projects, we found it helpful to learn to work and collaborate with others. One of the most beneficial aspects of collaborating was having a team available to assist in selecting and editing images to make a cohesive project and make the final exhibition a success. 

We believe that every art and design student should do a research project like this. It allows students to delve into their major or emphasis and it’s incredibly helpful experience for the future.  It’s a unique opportunity to work with faculty, other students and community members and learn a lot about the nature of collaborative work and gathering ideas for a project from multiple different perspectives, all great preparation for future careers.