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Friends of THEMUSEUM: Jason Panda

Community members are a very important aspect of THEMUSEUM. Our staff and volunteers interact with members of the Kitchener-Waterloo community on a daily basis, and do their absolute best to ensure they are always entertained, inspired and enlightened. This month’s Friend of THEMUSEUM is Jason Panda, who created Image A Show | Youth Photography. Jason is a teacher in Waterloo Region who works with, and encourages youth to be creative and have fun with photography and design.

How did you initially become involved with THEMUSEUM?

Imagine A Show has been around for four years now, so this is our fourth year, and it was the end of our second year that I wanted to connect more with cornerstones of the Kitchener community. I reached out to THEMUSEUM. I came in over the summertime with my kids, actually, who always enjoy the space, and I was able to meet with David and tell him about what I’ve been doing the last few years. He was really excited and happy to make THEMUSEUM a home for the show last year.

Were there any specific reasons why you wanted Imagine A Show to move to THEMUSEUM?

THEMUSEUM, since it started, from what I understand, has always connected with kids, and has been just a great place for families to come, to feature activities that engage children, and Imagine A Show, for me, has been two-sided: one, and opportunity for students and youth, but also wanting them to engage with things that they and their own community have created, so it just seemed to make sense.

Imagine A Show is a community art show for youth. How do you see community art, as a whole, fitting into THEMUSEUM?

I love the idea of going to galleries and visiting art spaces and witnessing art and being a part of art conversations, I think that’s phenomenal. I also believe in bringing art more into community spaces where people want to bring their family for an afternoon of activities. So we have our gallery spaces, and THEMUSEUM is a different type of space, but it is a wonderful, creative space; it’s a formal space of a different type.

Is there any specific reason why Imagine A Show focuses on youth photography?

As a teacher, I’ve been teaching for 10 years now in Waterloo Region, I’ve been very lucky to work with really talented youth, and just [been] blown away by what they can create on a daily basis. I work with them in graphics and in photography, but also see them in all the different facets of school life. I wanted to see what other youth were doing out in the community, and I wanted to interact with them and give them an opportunity. Part of it is that growing up, I didn’t have opportunities; we had great programs, but taking your art outside of school and saying to the world “Look what I’ve done” – that’s what I wanted to provide to the kids. I work with adults as well, and I really want to connect with aspiring learners of all ages, there are really no limitations, but with this show I really want the idea of seeing a photo and walking up and saying, “Wow, that was really taken by an eight year old?” and having them realize what can be created by our youth. It’s humbling. Adults, I find, are more conservative and restricted, generally, that is not a blanket statement, with their photography. They’re nervous, because there are often expectations for photographers, for learners, that you have to get it right the first time. Kids don’t have that as much as adults, and want to keep that creative desire to just play going for as long as possible, because it’s amazing what you can learn when you play.

What three words would you use to describe THEMUSEUM?

Play. Family. Community.