Hello Green River.
We’re new here. We just arrived last week from Oregon, in a big, slow, brown van.
It took us a week to get from Portland to Green River, ambling down the Pacific Coast and east across the Great Basin. We camped among Port Orford cedars, walked up San Francisco’s steep hills, stopped into Elko during the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and ate Indian food in Salt Lake City.
But now we’re here. And that’s the most important part.
We hit the ground running on a community-based graphic design project called the Green River News. We’re here for the month of February to create a single-edition newspaper that will be a portrait of this place, a story of this town. We’re collaborating mainly with students from Green River High School, leading workshops during the school day and holding after-school sessions at the invitation of the CHEER (Creating a Healthy Environment and Encouraging Respect) Coalition. We also plan to engage seniors at the Senior Center and children at the Community Center.
Our goal is to make something exciting with the residents of Green River. We hope the project’s outcome will be meaningful and relevant to the people who live here, while also telling an interesting story about the place to outsiders.
Why Green River? We have both been here before, as Fellows with the Epicenter’s Frontier Fellowship program. The time we spent here getting to know the landscape and people made an impression on us. It made us want to return to help find the stories of this place. And so we have.
And so, for the next few weeks, please indulge us! Tell us what you did today. Send us to your neighbor with the interesting collection in his garage. Encourage your kids to come hang out with us after school and make something awesome. Show us your best photograph. Write a letter to the editor (that’s us)—we’ll probably print it. Welcome the high school students that we’ll be sending into the world to query you.
See you around town!
— Sarah Baugh and Nicole Lavelle
We’re halfway through our third week here, and our new reality is HIGH SCHOOL (!!!!!)
We’ve spent the last two weeks immersed in the delightful chaos that is high school, leading workshops and running the CHEER after school program. We made comics with the Drawing class, explored photographic contrasts with the Yearbook staff, and made unconventional advertisements for Green River in Graphic Arts. We led a two-week research and creative writing project in the 12th grade Language Arts class, and took a field trip to the Green River City Archives. Whew! And now that we’re finished, we have some excellent content from the young people of Green River to share in the newspaper.
We’ve also been hanging out with junior high and high school students who come to CHEER’s after-school program, working with them one-on-one and in groups to make projects based on the things they’re into. One student is into cooking, and so last week we made flan in the home-ec room. One student has developed an interest in photography, and so she’s been taking our portraits and documenting walks we take in the afternoon. A pair of brothers are SUPER into parkour, and so they’re collaborating on an article to demystify the sport. Their older sister is into fashion, and so tomorrow we’ll work with a woman from the Green River Thrift Store to do a photo shoot in the desert.
It’s been a wild ride. To put it simply, teenagers are unpredictable. We were prepared to be adaptable, and thank goodness, things change minute to minute. We weren’t necessarily prepared for how consuming it can be to support a class of students in making creative work. We anticipated being able to collaborate more closely with people from Green River who aren’t teenagers, but in reality our focus has undoubtedly been high school.
It’s all coming together, though! Collaborations are growing organically, with members of the Green River community. We’ve received submissions of photographs, letters and articles, and anything could happen in the week before we go to print.
In a week we send the paper to the printer, and we are so excited. Our friend from Portland, Corbin Lamont (future Frontier Fellow!) is arriving tonight for a four-day design blitz, to help us plug content into the paper.
There are a number of Epicenter High School Interns who have been involved in the process from start to finish, dedicated to making the newspaper a reality. When it’s all printed and ready, we’ll take them up to the Salt Lake City Tribune to see where it was printed and talk with news reporters and photographers. The next day, we’ll have a release party at the Epicenter to celebrate the students’ hard work. There will be cupcakes and newspapers galore.
For the last month, we’ve been running all around town, photographing and writing about Green River in partnership with teenagers from town. We pushed them to think about their home, their families and their futures, and transform it all into publishable content. After four weeks of after-school sessions with junior high and high school students, and many conversations with local people, we wrapped up our files and sent them to the printer.
Last Friday, we loaded five students and two teen interns into a van and drove up to Salt Lake City. We took the kids to see the 100-gallon tanks of magenta ink at the newspaper press, get a tour of the Salt Lake Tribune newsroom, and pick up 10,000 copies of the newspaper. The kids learned a lot, but also had fun.
On Saturday, we held the newspaper release party for the community, complete with homemade donuts, cupcakes and chili. Broadway was PACKED with cars, both sides of the street. Epicenter staff told us the event brought record-breaking numbers of party-goers. The sun was shining, the wind was quiet, and it felt like spring. The best moment was maybe when the mayor told us (not once, but twice!) how proud he was of our hard work on the paper, and what a great engaging project the paper had been for the town.
On Sunday morning, Epicenter split into teams (one for the north side of Main, one for the south side) and hand-delivered papers to as many houses as possible. We tossed papers over barking dogs, and we handed them to people doing yard work. This morning, at the post office, we ran into a lady who was mailing a copy of the paper to her son. “It’s a success,” she said.