New Lens is a youth driven organization focused on creating art and media to highlight the perspectives of underrepresented groups on social issues and inspire change. Through art forms such as comic strips and short documentaries, the group tackles a variety of local issues affecting Baltimore City including unemployment, sex education, and energy conservation. However, the group’s most immediate accomplishment is providing young adults with an opportunity to pursue art as a valid career and encouraging kids to become active citizens in their communities.
After corresponding with one of the group’s few adult leaders, Executive Director Rebecca Yenawine, we were informed that this group grew out of an after school program called Kids on the Hill that Yenawine had been running for 12 years. She explained that the kids “needed jobs and a way to take all they’d learned at KOH and advance it on a larger scale.” Thus, New Lens was born and now the students not only create videos, but are also hired to run video workshops at local schools, facilitate seminars at conferences, and create videos on commission.
New Lens has been providing these services informally since 2006, and officially became an entity in 2009 after they received fiscal sponsorship from Fusion Partnerships. Fusion Partnerships provides New Lens with bookkeeping services and occasional audits, while the members of New Lens still remain responsible for raising their own funds. The current youth leaders in the group are Production Leader Taylor Evans, Instruction Leader Nikita Mason, Advocacy Co-Leaders David Blair and Kevin Wellons, and Operations Manager Christopher Taylor. This group of young professionals has been able to pass on their knowledge of video making and activism to new groups of children in over 200 local schools.
In addition to teaching even newer generations, the current leaders of New Lens have gained success in their own video series. Currently, they are updating two documentary series utilizing “man on the street” interviews: Trash and Blackonomics. The first focuses on personal stories from people on the street about how much they’ve thrown away that day to bring attention to the issues of waste and disposal, and the latter is a series focusing on the economic disparity between the white and African-American populations in Baltimore. The current youth leaders have also expanded the types of art that New Lens utilizes in that they recently made several comic strips following the adventures of an energy conscious light bulb for the Reservoir Hill Improvement Council, one of many organizations with which the group has partnered.
Since the inception, New Lens has provided videos for such organizations as AIRS, Paul’s Place, the Facing Race Conference, and the Baltimore City Health Department. They also broadcast City Council Candidate Forums on their YouTube channel in order to provide universal accessibility to local politics. Overall, the organization gives focus to local issues plaguing underrepresented groups, while also fostering the creativity of the next generation of activists. You can visit their site here to explore more!