Spartanburg children were delighted to see a large exhibit filled with photos they had taken on display Thursday evening at the Chapman Cultural Center.

Thirty-three selected images were featured. Some photographs showed the beauty in nature highlighted with trees, birds, flowers and leaves. Other photos were taken showing scenic backgrounds and sunsets.

The photography show was part of the “Seeing Through Their Eyes” STEAM program created by the Spartanburg Science Center, Spartanburg Area Conservancy and the University of South Carolina Upstate Foundation. The goal was to create an opportunity for children to take photos of the world they see around them in nature during the coronavirus pandemic. The cultural center got involved by showing the photos as part of Youth Art Month.

Jacob Walker, 5, recognized his photo in the exhibit and said it was taken with the help of his sister.

“It’s a big leaf,” Jacob said. “My sister is holding it.”

In January, children were given take-home kits in both English and Spanish with a disposable camera, a nature guide with suggested activities, and a chance to go on guided tours for areas such as the Cottonwood Trail, Spartanburg Science Center and the Susan Jacobs Arboretum at USC Upstate. Children were also encouraged to take photos in their own environment, even their backyard.

More: Spartanburg school children get inspired through photography, nature

Residents have been voting on their top three Community Choice Awards which were on display during the ArtWalk on Thursday, marking the one-year anniversary of the pandemic shutdown.

The project also was designed to bring families together and give them something to do during the pandemic. 

Tate Thompson, 3, was one of the Community Choice Winners and was excited to see his favorite truck on display at the exhibit.

“This is a working truck, excavator, front loader and my favorite truck,” Tate said. “I like to dig with the truck.”

Tate’s mom, Beth Thompson said this project came at a perfect time for their family since Tate took most of his photos while the family was in quarantine.

“I had COVID, and he was doing his 14-day quarantine day,” Thompson said. “We were at home spending a lot of time together so the camera and walking out in our yard was a good relief and a fun thing to do while in quarantine.”

Multiple children, including some who participated through PASOS in the Hispanic community and children who participated through the City’s Parks and Recreation programs, had their photos on display during the opening of the exhibit. 

“We were blown away by the photos we received during the program,” said Mary Levens, executive director of the Spartanburg Science Center.  “It was no easy task to select a handful of images for the art show, but thankfully we had an excellent panel of local photographers helping us choose. We were pleased to be able to share an online gallery with each family, so they have an opportunity to download the digital files or print them with our partners at Spartan Photo.”  

The Chapman Cultural Center is commissioning a local artist to take all the photos and make one original piece. All the photographs displayed will be for sale for $50 each but won’t be available for pick-up until after Earth Day on April 22.

“Together we’d like the community grant to extend the exhibit a little longer in observance of Earth Day,” said Amanda Mathis, executive director of SPACE.

In April the exhibit will be downtown at the Upstate Graphic Design Gallery to launch off Earth Day. SPACE will also hand out trees through schools and several community events. More details about this initiative will be announced in April.

View the top 30 photos in the exhibit here

The next “Seeing Through Their Eyes” exhibit will be held April 15, 5-7 p.m. at the Upstate Gallery on Main, 172 E. Main St., Spartanburg.

Ashley Dill is a native of Spartanburg and has been on staff for the Herald-Journal for 14 years. She covers community news and can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @ashleydill_shj. 

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