Althea Schalow completes the 2017 Art of Teen Leadership: Marquette Photovoice Project

The Art of Teen Leadership: Marquette Photovoice Project engaged youth from Marquette in expressing their perspectives on issues that they think are important in the community, using photography and storytelling as a medium to do so.

What could a 12 year-old know about the strengths and concerns of a community? Turns out a whole lot, and her perspective offers a unique way for adults and leaders to see their community.

Althea Schalow, a sixth grader from Marquette, Michigan, shared her perspective on important community matters through her participation in the 2017 Art of Teen Leadership: Marquette Photovoice Project. The goal of the project, led by staff from Michigan State University Extension, was to enable youth in the Marquette area to use photography to highlight the aspects of their community that they viewed as strengths and opportunities for change.  You can read more about the Marquette Photovoice Project in the “Marquette Photovoice Project lets community see through eyes of youth” news article.

Schalow’s photography for the project focused on some of the positive ways that people interact in the Marquette community, and on how recent development has, in her opinion, diminished one of the city’s most precious natural features.  Schalow, whose mom is a photographer, decided to participate in the project to learn more about photography and enjoyed being able to focus on her community through her work.

“I liked that we got to take pictures of things that we like about our community and that could be better,” Schalow said. 

Schalow identified the Downtown Marquette Farmers Market as one place in the community that helps bring people together to interact in positive ways. Her photograph, “An Ordinary Day” depicts members of the community engaged in meaningful conversations at the farmers market. “Diversity and Products,” another photograph created by Schalow at the farmers market, reflects the value she sees in the variety of products grown by local farmers.

An exhibit at the City of Marquette Arts and Culture Center exhibited Schalow’s photographs, along with those of the other youth who participated in the program. It took place from November 27 through December 5. For the exhibit, Schalow wrote captions to accompany each of her photographs to clearly communicate the positive or negative aspects of the community that she wanted to capture.


“An Ordinary Day,” by Althea Schalow. Artist's statement: “When I look at this picture, I see an everyday conversation. This photo is telling me that there is friendship in my community. This is a positive strength and the reason why I think it is this way is because of the small community; people know each other, compared to others that are larger.”


“Diversity and Products,” by Althea Schalow. Artist's statement: "I see a hard choice of buying one product over another. I like this in my community because of the farmers and the variety of what they bring to the market. This brings an opportunity to have a choice, or freedom, but still staying local. I am also very grateful of farmers providing choice.”

While overall, Schalow sees many positive things happening in her community, she also wanted to share her perspective on one aspect that she thought could be better. In her photos “Monster Building” and “Misclaimer, Lakeside Park,” Schalow highlights the way recent development of property along Marquette’s lakeshore has changed the view of Lake Superior. 


“Monster Building,” by Althea Schalow  Artist's statement: "There are condos that are being built in front of Lake Superior. They have been built before along US 41/Front St. near Lakeside Park, and more are being built.This is telling me that you can’t look out your car window to see a beautiful feature of Marquette without looking at someone else's house in the way. I think this is a concern because there are biking and other activities in the path of the condos and it takes away from the Lake Superior feel. I think that instead there could be a park, sledding hill, or smaller houses that aren't so large and that would be a better choice for the community.”


“Misclaimer, Lakeside Park” by Althea Schalow. Artist's statement: “When I see this I think ‘Where is the Lakeside Park?’ What I see is only a small portion (of the view) is lake and a mass of the space is buildings, with the sign in the middle designating “Lakeside Park”. The fact that it is a Lakeside Park, and you can barely see the lake, makes me feel like it is a concern. I think that this photo provides opportunities to improve this issue. It shows that when building that condo, the park was not taken into consideration, and (the photograph was made) in hopes to stop it from happening again.”

Through her participation in the project, Schalow developed new skills and learned new things about her community.

“I learned that I am capable of taking pictures and that there are more positive things in my community than negative,” she said. 

Schalow believes that it is important for young people to engage as active members and leaders in their community because through these types of experiences, they can develop skills that will help them to share their opinion with others and help create positive change.

“Youth can come up with different viewpoints that adult community members wouldn’t see as a problem,” she said.

Schalow’s photographs, and those taken by other participants in the Marquette Photovoice Project, emphasize the fact that young people care about their community and they have a unique and valuable perspective to share. When taken into account by current community leaders, this perspective can help to inform planning and decision-making processes that can create communities that attract and retain young people. 

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, citizenship and service and global and cultural education programs, read our 2016 Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.”  Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways MSU Extension and Michigan 4-H positively impacted individuals and communities in 2016 can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website.

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