Alicia Hansen- NYCSalt is a non-profit photography program for inner city kids. Right now we’re primarily working with kids who are in high school. They mostly come from Washington Heights, The Bronx, and a few from Hell’s Kitchen and the Lower East Side. Our program spans all over the city. We have four photographers, including myself, who teach a group of about ten to fourteen kids during the academic year, and in the summer we have special programs. All the classes are taught by professionals, so we focus on applying the art of photography as a trade, as well as finding internships for the kids interested in pursuing photography as a trade. We meet for two hours each week for class, and then each student gets five hours a week of studio time. They have two shows each year, one in June and one in December, which are pretty large events.
L+W- What inspired you to start such an amazing and inspiring organization?
AH- I’ve been a professional photographer for over 15 years, and I always thought it would be fun to hold a class for kids. I never had art classes in school growing up, so it wasn’t until college that I was able to explore my creativity and find that I was really good at photography. I think there are many kids who are extremely creative but don’t have the school programs that provide them with the proper guidance to hone their talents. Our program gives them something to focus on, it gives them support and love and keeps them out of trouble.
L+W- What is the most moving moment you’ve had so far?
AH- One of our students, Devin, came to us six years ago. He was the chubby kid who got picked on quite a bit by his classmates in school. He wasn’t interested in sports at all- he was interested in fashion design, which made him even less popular with the other boys. He had really low self-esteem and confidence. It turned out that he is a very talented photographer in that his work usually tells a story on a deeper level than most. I remember our first show when he walked in and said, “oh, I have five pictures on the wall- I didn’t think I was that good!” And he got to see his pictures sell as well. To watch him over the years go from being the insecure kid who was put down by his peers to embracing all of the opportunities we’ve opened for him has been extremely rewarding. He is now the youngest intern at Diane Von Furstenberg. He went from working one day a week to three days a week and is developing relationships there. He also found an internship on his own through the owner of the gallery that housed our last show. He has gone from being extremely shy to a great networker who is not afraid to ask for what he wants, and I see great things happening for him in his future.
L+W- Is there anything else we should know about NYCSalt that we haven’t talked about?
AH- I think the inspiration for starting this was to give back to my own community to the best of my ability. I have a huge love for the kids and have worked really hard at building relationships with them in order to help them find the right opportunities. Over the years I’ve been blessed with seeing a lot of results because I’ve been working on this long enough, and it’s extremely rewarding. We’re looking forward to the future and to the new kids who come through our program.