Outside Voices: Jayden at BEA


Outside Voices is an interview series in which Community-Word Project catches up with community members.

Young man sitrting in front of a window in a skyscraper at dusk. Headshot of a woman with slight smile

On this installment of Outside Voices, CWP Board Member Lori Bullock speaks with Jayden, a junior at Bronx Envision Academy.

[Interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.]

So nice to meet you, Jay. My name is Lori Bullock. I am a board member at CWP and I serve on the Communications Committee and one of the tasks that I do in service for CWP is I conduct these interviews that we put into the newsletters, and it really shines the spotlight on students like yourself that have been a part of the program and excelled at it.

We interview teaching artists, along with teachers and at times people that help support our organization. So, today we’ve decided to speak with you. So can you let everybody know who you are? So just tell us your name.
What grade you are in and where do you go to school.

Jayden: Alright. Well, thank you for having me. My name is Jayden.
I’m an 11th grader, a junior, and I go to Bronx Envision Academy.

Lori: And Jayden, how would you describe the programs and the work that you were a part of at CWP?

Jayden: Well it first started when I was a freshman, I used to have Mr.
Saunders for English. And [Teaching Artist] Holly, I think that’s her name, Holly.
She was in my classroom freshman year, and we did a lot of activities that were driven by, like, poetry.

So that was like my first experience with CWP. And then last year in July, I was a part of, I guess you would say, a journalism internship that also had to do a lot with computer science and coding, and that took place by Jay Street Metrotech at an NYU office. And it was about 7 to 8 days and I worked with NYU professors and [Teaching Artist] Elizabeth from CWP.

So I had some pretty different….I guess I would say, a lot of diversity when it comes to experimenting with different things. So, from poetry to journalism to computer science and, as of right now, actually yesterday I attended a tour with [Teaching Artist] Lily from CWP. We went on a studio tour and I’ve been doing this filmmaking.

Lori: Yes.

Jayden: Yeah, this filmmaking and storytelling program, thanks to Michele. Michele actually told me about this back when I went on a SUNY Purchase trip.
And Michelle had told me about the storytelling program. She told me that I would probably like it, which I am. So yeah, I’ve been hitting it off really well with that program. So yeah, those have been my affiliations with CWP.

Lori: Very cool. So the storytelling program gives you an element of learning, specifically a screen writing process, no?

Jayden: Yes, yes. We are gonna be creating a script by the end of the program.

Lori: Very cool. And what kind of stories would you see yourself telling, umm, as a visionary and a filmmaker? A budding filmmaker, as you begin to take a lot of these courses to help you form the narrative, the visual narrative that you want to present to the world.

Jayden: I would say that I would try to tell a personal story and I would probably make a personal story, maybe from my childhood. So like how my upbringing has kind of molded me to being the person that I am right now.

Just because, like anytime I look back on my childhood, it shaped me, so I would probably go back to my childhood and make a story based off of that. I’m still kind of, you know, like figuring it out.

It’s gonna be two weeks since I first started this, but it’s definitely…. It’s kind of been a challenge because I’ve never really been in this, uh, how can I say….I really love movies. And I really love TV shows. And entertainment and all that. But I’ve never really been on the other end of creating, you know, scripts….I I’ve had like a shift of perspective. So this has definitely been a very interesting, very interesting experience so far.

Lori: Well, that’s really wonderful because I think one of the duties that we try and do at CWP is bring onboard Teaching Artists and experts in the field that expose students like yourself to all kinds of different areas of art and aesthetic that they’ve practiced and mastered. To expose you to a world so that you can imagine yourselves being a part of it and exhibiting those new skills once you learnit. It’s one of those things that you can just continue to explore and thrive in. The internet is filled with scripts that you can download and read and peruse and kind of follow the format. You can download software on how to create your scripts and everything. So I would just say keep pursuing all of those programs that CWP is offering to you in terms of storytelling.

Jayden: Mm-hmm.

Lori: I understand you guys had a session yesterday. You went to Mr. Bronx Audio Studio and you met the sound engineer, David. So tell me a little bit about that experience and what you did.

Jayden: OK. So, yesterday we went over to Mr. Bronx Audio Studio. It took me by surprise because I wasn’t expecting the studio to look that at all. I mean, it’s kind of like my first time being in the audio studio like that. It was in the Flatiron District, so it was like, really nice. I did end up getting lost even before I got to the studio because there were two different locations with 900 Broadway. So it was a bit of a hassle to get there, but yes, I did meet Dave who was the owner of Mr. Bronx Audio Studio.

He gave us a tour. We went through the rules that they have on the 3rd floor of that building. He basically explained how every room is designated for a specific stage in the process of submitting a script. So there will be a room where they brainstorm and come up with the idea of what, you know, what script they want to pitch to a specific studio.

Then there’s a different room where it’s much bigger. More people can be in that room and they will basically finalize edits and they will, you know, finish off the script that they want to pitch and make sure everything is, you know, all perfect.

And then there was another room that stuck out to me. Specifically, it had the poster of Blade Runner, the original Blade Runner movie, and it had a lot of…

Lori: Mm-hmm. With Harrison Ford, the actor?

Jayden: Yes, Harrison Ford. Yes, the original Blade Runner.

And he had Blade Runner books and the 2001 Space Odyssey book on cinematography. So, a lot of movie books and all that. So it was really cool to see. There were magazines on the coffee table. So that room stuck out to me. I believe the person who works in that office specifically does like color correction and I kind of relate to that because I really love doing color correction and color grading.

Lori: Yes. I’m so glad you had an opportunity to do that. David happens to be a colleague of mine and we worked in service of the same industry which is the advertising filmmaking community. Basically, we work on commercials and content for clients that are either part of their website or a new campaign that they’re trying to promote for the public.

You know, in terms of the new product, service, or goods that they’ve brought to market, sometimes they’re branded, sometimes they’re unbranded and sometimes they have a lot of tie-ins with other corporate entities like movies, you know, like TV shows and they’re sort of like brand partnerships and things like that.

Jayden: Yeah.

Lori: So it’s a lot of fun, and it’s sort of an untapped area. And color grading for you, if you’re really interested in filmmaking, is really a quite wonderfully unique process that a lot of people don’t really know about because it sets the aesthetic and look of the film that viewers are looking at.

There’s all sorts of ways to sort of make it….the cinematography that was shot, make it really dramatic with the coloring. Or make it more stark and crisp or really gritty and grainy. It serves as a tonal element to your theme of the movie, whether it’s sci-fi fantastic, whether it’s sort of a gritty street drama or something like that, or post apocalyptic.

So the coloring and the grading really kind of adds to the visual thematic look of the theme and the narrative that you’re trying to tell someone. I’m so glad that you pointed that out specifically, in addition to the sound engineering. So that means that your antennas are really tuned into the world and that you are receiving it, which is really for me, you know, a person that likes to impart this kind of wisdom and experience to students makes us really feel good because you’re in the world and in the moment, and you’re sort of ready to pick that up.

So that kind of leads me to my next question. You’re learning how to craft storytelling, and you’ve already been exposed, I think, to some poetry, writing and some computer science courses. Umm, so you mentioned that your narrative would be more personal.

So would you see yourself being sort of like a documentarian, drawing upon themes that affect people? Tell me a little about what you think and your creative minds eye that you would like to create and use these skills that you’re learning.

Jayden: Yeah, I would love to. I would say I kinda do that freestyle, almost where I’m a street photographer. So in my free time, I’ll go out wherever I can in New York. Usually it’s lower Manhattan and I’ll just go out and take photos. Last year, when I was a part of the NYU CWP program, I got to take photos a lot in Brooklyn mostly so, just going around and exploring like all the other parts of New York that I haven’t really gone to was really special.

And then whatever I can find when I’m out in the street photos, I can document that. And that drives me more into the photojournalism of photography because there’s just so many aspects of photography that you know, there’s fashion photography, food photography. There’s so many different things that I haven’t really touched on yet, but photo documentary would definitely be something that I want to touch upon.

Lori: That’s really incredible to hear and I love to hear that. So cause you that what it does is open up a door for many things that you can do. You know, you could also be sort of like a photojournalist and capture, you know, these images for newspapers or a magazine.

You know, there is a very famous photographer who’s African American by the name of Gordon Parks. That is quite legendary. He’s passed away now, but if you look him up on Google you will see he did a lot of incredible imagery, especially with respect to people who lived in the inner city who look like him.

He was African American and he also became elevated and shot fashion and then went on to become a movie director. So he’s sort of laid the blueprint for a lot of our modern day photographers and storytellers that transition between static photography and then moving footage, and imagery and storytelling.

So, you know, it’s really quite remarkable to hear your interest in what you’re doing. So I’m so excited for you and that kind of leads me to my next question.

These are all artistic expressions, especially you picking up your camera and being excited to kind of shoot what we call lifestyle imagery of people.

No one is really born as an artist. I mean, you might have some sort of gift that is naturally given to you, but what would you say Is the part of the process of learning that’s kind of making you better, like tell describe your process and how you may do things and may take a bad shot, but then you figure out how composition and lighting, setting your certain lighting and things will help you improve and anything else that you’ve learned as you take these courses.

Jayden: That’s a really good question. What’s funny about that is that I would say I guess, yeah, I guess it was natural for me because when I first started photography, it was only last year. It was November of 2022, almost early 2023.

And it was just natural to me. Like when I first started, I started from the beginning. Learn the basics and the foundation of photography like composition.
Like you said. Rule of thirds and all that, but like right now, I would say that I’m still experimenting with a lot of things.

Obviously I usually stick to what I know best, but when I do stick to what I know best, I try to tweak it a little bit. I don’t want to repeat what I know. I kind of wanna put a little remix on it, just switch it up a little bit and obviously I want to try different things.

Like I said earlier, with photojournalism or documenting or even going into fashion photography, studio photography. You know, just going and trying new things.

So when I’m doing street photography, I always try to switch it up a little bit. So as of recent I’ve been trying to add leading lines into my photos. That way it kind of changes the perspective of my photos when you’re first looking at it. So I’m trying to add new things into my perspective of photography.

Lori: Very cool. Photography is of course a visual art that….I can’t imagine the world without photographers in it providing a lens and a viewpoint of, you know, what the world looks like around us and how we live in it.

And you being a budding photographer. Tell us a little bit about why art is important to you and you talked about your process. I’d love to learn a little bit more about that and you know, maybe you have a few encouraging words for other students that are along the same path.

Jayden: I would say art is important to me and I guess it would tie into also why I would advise other people who are interested in art?

This is just like….it’s very personal. Everybody has their own connection to art and it’s just like there’s so many different forms of art. So if you don’t really like photography, you might like videography. And if you don’t like videography, you might, you know, watching movies. Some people might not like movies, they might like TV shows.

So it’s just like there’s so many different forms of art. And I feel like with art you can just connect with it personally. So if anybody is trying to get into the world of art, I would say to just start. Don’t hesitate to go into it and try new and different things. Because you might try something first and it might not stick with you, but that doesn’t mean that any other form of art won’t stick with you. You really, you might not know.

And like you said, with Gordon Parks. He did so many different things and I feel like that might be something that I might be doing in the future, like I might be doing photography now, but I could be like an executive producer or something like that and writing scripts.

Lori: A director or a cinematographer? Yeah, all of these things.

Jayden: Right, exactly. Because there’s so many forms of art, sometimes it’s such a big world and so little time. Like there’s not a lot of time for you to experiment with everything. So it’s don’t always just stick to one thing. Try to experiment with other stuff. Go into different forms of art and just, you know, see what works for you and if it doesn’t work for you, try something else. That’s what I would say to somebody if they need some advice.

Lori: Jayden, that’s such great advice. You know, the one thing that we often find is that when you start to experiment within art the different phases of aesthetics… like you started off in the sound engineering room and then you stumbled upon the color grade room where colorists really go in and digitally color film or, you know, digital video pixels these days. But that art started really with actually literally coloring 35 millimeter and they would have a huge big panel of controls and they would literally be able to go in and open up every little frame that you see and make it brighter or, you know, change the color to make it more vivid, brown, or less saturated, that kind of thing.

And so, discover that there are other aspects.That’s the wonderful thing about being curious because you just never know what might lead you down.

I would say now that you’re learning all about art and how it affects you and how it makes you feel. Do you think art can actually help change the world and open up people’s minds?

Jayden: I think art can definitely change the world. I think it can bring people together. Yeah, I mean, I just see it as a way to meet new people. Just see different perspectives.

Me and Dave were actually just talking about that yesterday, how sometimes art doesn’t really have to be driven by race. It doesn’t have to be driven by gender.
Does it have to be driven by anything in particular. You can be from a very basic background, you can be from New York, or you could be from some other part of the world, and you can still connect with art.

You don’t have to have a crazy story. It’s just like anybody can connect with art and I feel like that art can really change the world if everybody can just connect with it. And if we all come together and all, just look at something so simple. I feel sometimes people try to overcomplicate things, overthink sometimes.

So yeah, like me and Dave were talking….he might comment on something when looking at it or listening to it because he’s the sound engineer, sound designer. And he’ll be like we should do this, this and this. And other people might not really see his vision but because he has that different perspective.
That’s what makes this so special, about having that different perspective on something, because other people might not agree with you, but at least you have somebody else that’s viewing it from a different point of view. So I think that’s what really makes art so special.

Lori: That’s great commentary and insight actually. I have another question for you. You know, since you’ve been taking these CWP courses and being exposed to different workshops, can you tell me how that has changed the way you think, how you kind of apply your mind when you’re doing, you know, your homework now or taking tests or your learning process?

Has it had any kind of effect on, you know, the way you approach your school lessons now, as you begin to explore the world outside of class and learning about art and aesthetic and things like that. How does that affect you in your everyday life as a student?

Jayden: It’s a really good question. I would say that right now, the filmmaking program, I can see that it’s already having a big impact on the way that I, like, already see art.

Just like looking at certain movies, I already see them differently. And then like with the poetry and the written words that we were doing like back in July and even back in my freshman year. It really kind of changes my perspective on the written word. I remember research projects for AP Humanities, which I’m doing right now. It really changed my perspective on different authors And, you know, people from all different parts of the world, that really changed my perspective on that.

With computer science I’ll be honest, I didn’t really see much of an impact so far.
Like when I’m doing homework or anything like that. I am very grateful that I did participate in that because it was something different. I’ve never really worked with computer science, but definitely I would say more the poetry, the written part of it, the journalism part really stuck with me when I was working with CWP in the past.

Lori: Cool, very cold. So did CWP make you feel differently about school in general. For example, did having a time and a place to express yourself and to visually and collectively make school feel differently from you?

Jayden: Yeah, for sure I would.
I would definitely say that they definitely did give me that open space. They did give me that vulnerability to open yourself. Because usually sometimes the teacher might give you a prompt. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like you have that freedom to express yourself.

So CWP definitely gave us that space to, you know, just share your personal thoughts and actually feel like you were actually putting your personal perspective on work actually.

Lori: That’s a great answer. And did you learn something about yourself that surprised you when you were participating in these writing programs? Especially like, you know, the personal writing, creative writing, the poetry, the exercises of being introspective and going inside yourself to express your thoughts. Because I know some of your narrative and storytelling is very personal now, which is also showing up in your photography. So let’s talk a little bit about that.

Jayden: I would say that I….I was surprised actually that I – it kind of sounds funny when I say it – but I can actually be myself. I don’t know, it’s just sometimes I feel going into high school going into new things, even if it’s not CWP, trying new things, you usually try to not to be somebody else, but you try to fit in with what you see in the environment.

So going from being in school in the Bronx and then going into a program that’s in Manhattan, there’s kind of like a shift. So, I mean when I tried these things with CWP, I was kind of like, Oh ok, I can be myself. I can just be my true self.

Lori: I think we were kind of finishing up talking about how taking these courses and being exposed to art, has it changed you in any way or surprised you in terms of learning something about yourself that you hadn’t known before or discovered?

Jayden: Yeah. I was going over how I could be myself. I didn’t really realize that until trying these new things. Umm, I didn’t really have to change who I was because of going from the Bronx to Manhattan or like, going down to Brooklyn cause it was like my first time going to Brooklyn by myself.

I didn’t really have to change who I was just because my environment was changing and what was around me. I could still be myself, even though everything else around me was different. I could still be who I am and I don’t have to change any little part of myself, just because anything around me is changing.

Lori: I kind of love that answer and it actually kind of makes me tear up a little bit because, you know, this is a big new wonderful world and it takes a lot of courage and growth and strength for you to will yourself to journey past the world around you. Journey past the streets around you. Journey past the building that you’ve grown up in and journey past your friends and the family and things that you’ve never seen or experienced before.

And it takes a little courage, because sometimes people may say to you, well, you know, why are you so interested in going outside the community or well, you know, why are you interested in trying to elevate yourself and be exposed to new things?

So, you know, it takes courage and that’s really important because when you do that, you find that you are right where you need to be, that you can fit in just about anywhere and it might be a little scary at first because there is something very uniquely gifted about you that’s gonna give you the strength, the courage, the tenacity, and the curiosity to push.

Jayden: Yes.

Lori: And I always want you to remember that. I always want you to, to feel as though you can go anywhere you want to. You could be a part of anything that you want to and that there is no place that you should not be able to explore or see or feel or be a part of, and it takes a little bit of research, a little bit of effort on your part on always being curious.

Jayden: Thank you.

Lori: And there are all kinds of organizations that reach out to young people that want to learn about that process. And I can tell you, anything that you want to learn just watch and read.

You know, if you see photographs that you like, research and find that photographer, if there is a movie that you like, research and find that screenwriter. You know, the thing about technology now with social media, there are Instagram pages and all kinds of things that you could in Twitter or X that you can reach out or be a part of it.

A lot of these people have foundations and companies on their own, so always be curious because you just never know how you’re going to make a connection and show up where there are exhibits and things like that going on.
Art exhibits, you know which are usually for free, that you can go to, or some postings at galleries and museums.

Jayden: Yes

Lori: So the the point of that is continue to remain curious because that’s the insightful thing that you’re kind of telling us, telling me, telling everybody that’s gonna read this newsletter, is that you’ve opened up a place where you are finding the courage and the notion to move and explore in ways that you never thought you would. I’m very impressed that you are finding your way.

Jayden: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for having me. This has really been a nice experience for me to just to like, open up and be myself.

Lori: Absolutely. Because that’s really the thing about art is it needs to be authentic and really come from a place which is activating you to share it with the world. So that kind of leaves me with…I’ve got two follow up questions before we wrap.

Jayden: Mm-hmm.

Lori: As you begin and continue to explore these different workshops to hone in on your artistic expression as a budding journalist, photo journalist or photographer, or in your storytelling narrative, you know also, as you write, you know. How would you say this program may prepare you in case you wanna go to college?

Jayden: Umm, that’s a really good question. I would say that it would prepare me for, not not not so much a major, but if I wanna try something else in college that’s outside of my major.

I mean, I don’t really know specifically, you know. I haven’t really settled on what I would wanna major in, but it’s just so nice to have something in your repertoire to add it into a boat of skills. So like in my boat of skills, I would say I have photography. I have knowledge of music or knowledge of film and stuff like that.

So after this program, I could say that I have knowledge in scripts and all these different things. So just to have a skill set of so many different things and having that diversity, I think taking that into college would kind of like, not saying like I’m better than anyone, but it would kind of put me ahead of other people per se because they haven’t really tried that sort of field yet.

So if they haven’t really done something with filmmaking or script writing, or you know, something like that, and I am going into college with that, and so many other different things, I think that would put me ahead of a lot of other people in college.

Lori: Very cool. My final question to you is what’s been your favorite moment in all of the workshops and experiences that you’ve already had with CWP.  Do you think it’s really important to be exposed to art classes and writing classes and tech classes as a public school student?

Jayden: I think that’s very important, especially while being in high school because my two favorite things when doing in the CWP programs is that I get to not only meet new people, but go to different places.
Like I went to Brooklyn last year, and even though it might not seem like, you know, it’s Brooklyn, but you know, as somebody who was first born in Harlem and was raised in the Bronx. I’ve never really had a lot of experiences with Brooklyn.
I mean, I went to Brooklyn like once or twice, and it was in the past and I didn’t really remember it too much, but for me to go to Brooklyn, on my own, and meet new people…just that foundation of networking, it’s huge. And for you to build that up in high school, it’s so important and a lot of people, a lot of people don’t really know about it, but CWP like it gives you, they give you that opportunity to network and meet other people and then that’s gonna lead to so many other special things.

Lori: OK. And that’s the special thing. The special kind of feeling that you get. What advice would you have for other students that are just starting out on their pathway of getting into experience? Their first writing class, their first poetry class. What would you tell them now that you’ve been through it and could kind of see your metamorphosis?

Jayden: So the advice that I would give – because I feel I would give this advice to myself in the past – is just to be yourself. And to express yourself how you would any other way. If you’re in your bed and you’re just writing and you’re just like, just be yourself and don’t shift your perspective because there’s different people around you.

Like I would just say, you know, if you’re first starting something new with writing, write down what really sticks with you. If it’s something from your childhood, if it’s something that you did recently, like you know, just be who you are. And what’s one more thing that I can give advice on?

Lori: Maybe voice, the power of voice and expressing your voice. Can you maybe talk about that and how these programs that CWP has provided is giving you a little bit of expressing the power of your voice and sharing that with the world and how you use it?

Jayden: Yeah. I mean, with the power of your voice and especially us being part of the youth is just like….if there’s a specific message that you wanna send out, then you can definitely use that. If there’s something that you wanna see change in the world. If there’s a specific issue that you see in the world and you wanna make an impact, then I would say use your voice right now. And don’t be afraid because there’s always gonna be somebody listening, somebody out there is gonna hear your voice. Eventually, they’re gonna hear your, you know, your thoughts. So if there’s something that you wanna make an impact on, you know somebody’s gonna be out there, somebody’s gonna be, you know, gonna reach out to you. So I would probably say that as well.

Lori: Well, thank you, Jay. This is really been a wonderful interview. I’m so happy to meet you and have the time to talk about all the things that you’re experiencing within the CWP programs and you applying it to the world that you live in as an artist.

Jayden: Thank you.

Lori: As an artist, I thank you for the time and I just want you to continue to express yourself, making your voice stronger and spreading your gift with the world. And I can’t wait to see more of your work.

Jayden: Thank you so much.

Lori: Well have a great day and we will speak with you soon. Thanks, Jay.

Jayden: Alright, thank you.