“IT ALL STARTS ON YOUR BLOCK” is the slogan for Unity Studio,” said Dani DiCiaccio, Unity Studio Program Coordinator at Southside Community Center. “To me, the statement signifies that anything is possible, be it a professional goal, a change of mindset, conquering fear or baggage – anything. All it takes is those first few steps and sometimes those steps can be within your own neighborhood.”
Unity Studio is tucked in the back corner of the Southside Community Center, which has been an historic part of the Southside community for decades and has provided inspiration and anticipation, DiCiaccio said. This non-profit recording studio serves as a hub for hundreds of aspiring rappers, producers, musicians and audio engineers, as well as offering after-school classes to area students and high-end, free recording services to Ithaca residents. Its mission is to support under-served musicians of all ages by teaching the most up-to-date software and providing support in all facets of music production.
A generous grant from the Community Arts Partnership in Ithaca, New York allowed photographer Prantik Mazumder, painter Meredith Towsand and videographer Enrique Caicedo to collaborate in order to portray the power of the work happening at Unity Studio. The goals for this project were simple: to expose Unity Studio to a broader audience, to give students a chance to explain what they’re working on and why it’s important to them and lastly, to give students a chance to be photographed, interviewed or painted. The artists worked closely with DiCiaccio to ensure their artistic vision fit with the mission of Unity Studio. Through many visits to Southside both with and without cameras, the artists were able to create an accurate, detailed and emotional show.
“Before the artists actually began taking photos and filming, they came in to check out the scene and meet our students,” DiCiaccio said. This was an essential part of the process as trust was built between the young people and the documenting artists. A few visits allowed everyone to get to know each other, and after that, some pretty personal moments were caught on film.
“At one point Prantik zoomed in on the lyrics of a young man’s to reveal some loving feelings toward a young woman,” DiCiaccio said. “Enrique caught me on film telling a student how proud I am of her and breaking down into tears. Students really let these people in on how vulnerable the creative process can be.”
Having three different lenses on the same program inevitably generated some similarity across the resulting works. “If I remember correctly, Prantik and Meredith even captured some of the same scenes, that is, Prantik has a photo and Meredith has a painting of the same thing,” DiCiaccio said.
This exhibit of photography, painting and video featuring The Unity Studio will run through August at Community School of Music and Arts (CSMA), 330 East State Street, Ithaca, NY.