Gabriela (Gabby) Baginski has been leading photography classes for members of Kadima’s Creative Expressions Program for more than two years as a teaching artist with the Community Arts Partnership Program of the College for Creative Studies in Detroit.
She has gotten to know many of the members very well and has even taken on new students since the pandemic, when she converted classes into online learning sessions, or worked with students outdoors.
“Many of the members continue to come back for classes,” she says. “It’s like a nice little family.”
Before Kadima, Gabby had never worked with people who live with mental illness. “It’s been very humbling and humanizing, and it has made me realize there is potential in everyone; I like them to embrace who they are.”
She says that since working with Creative Expressions, she has reevaluated how she teaches, stripping away any expectations about what people might know or not know. “It’s been great taking time to think about the process, stepping back to the simple, easy things about photography and going from there.”
Because she has so many repeat students, she must bring new curriculum and approaches to the table for each four- to six-week session. She started with having members explore the inner workings of their minds, to make their photography very personal. Since then, she has incorporated using editing applications; printing photos; blending journaling, creative writing or other fine arts with photography; and experimenting with polaroid cameras.
Gabby says that all of the Kadima members are extremely talented. “David is an amazing watercolorist who merges photographs with his painting. Sharon is brilliant, and documents what she’s doing and keeps creating. Michael really took what I laid out and went above and beyond.”
She is also excited to see what Ken will do; they have a one-on-one mentorship so that Ken can fine tune his photography, and he now has a nice DSLR camera to use.
While Gabby says it’s much easier to teach in person, her and the Kadima members have adapted, executing assignments with cameras, phones or tablets. “We’ve been online and Zooming,” she says. “We communicate that way and post, and they can message me. We actually have more contacts throughout the week.” She says that while it’s a more simplified way of teaching than in person, it has made everyone more connected.
The Creative Expressions Program provides creative enrichment activities for individuals served by Kadima. This includes the visual and performing arts, photography, writing, poetry, and culinary arts, with opportunities for individuals to attend or participate in community expos, markets, programs and entertainment events. The program is funded by the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, the D. Dan and Betty Kahn Foundation, and a host of generous individual donors.