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Natalie Tranelli and Anne Kotleba

Alumnae profiles of Natalie Tranelli '10 '11 and Anne Kotleba '12

Natalie Tranelli '10 '11 and Anne Kotleba '12  had found out firsthand about community-based art in theory when they'd traveled with Ken Krafchek '95, graduate director of MICA's MA and MFA in Community Arts programs, to Azerbaijan earlier this school year to facilitate photography projects in the capital, Baku, and the second-largest city, Ganja. Kotleba describes this US Embassy-funded project as "an opportunity to share our community arts philosophy on a greater scale, using photos as a vehicle to lift up the voice of otherwise invisible young people."

In Baku, the group worked with youth from the Azerbaijan Children's Shelter, many of whom are orphans, refugees, or homeless. "The youth executed a series of self-portraits, and then completed a photojournalism-style project where they told their story from their perspective. They went out into the community and photographed people and places important to them," said Tranelli, who had received her MA and MFA in Community Arts in 2010 and 2011 respectively. In Ganja, they'd trained college students during the day and then sent them home with cameras to photograph their personal stories.

Krafchek conducted monoprint workshops at multiple locations throughout the country while also helping to train the volunteers and youth that worked on Tranelli and Kotleba's projects. "From my perspective as a teacher, watching these students conduct very complex projects in a new context and succeed was very gratifying. I'm hoping this is a stepping stone to similar initiatives on an ongoing basis."