After his grandfather passed away and the house his mom owned foreclosed, Marc found himself packing all of his things and moving to Indianapolis. No friends. No job. Nowhere to go. It was a difficult and lonely time for this 17-year-old who grew up in Michigan.
While searching online for something to do, he found the Media Workshop at the Central Library. What he thought was just a "workshop" that might help him create a few videos turned into a weekly activity and a life-changing experience.
Marc spends every Monday night at the Media Workshop - and he has for the past three years. He started with an interest in making videos, but has since discovered hidden musical talents he didn't know he had. He has taken advantage of every type of software and workstation available in the Media Workshop. Video, animation, illustration, music-mixing - you name it, Marc has tried it. He has created videos, submitted commercials in national competitions, mixed music and created CDs.
"When Marc first started coming here, he was the video kid who just wanted to shoot and edit videos," said Gail Ratcliff, media production guide at the Learning Curve, home to the Media Workshop. "He - we didn't know he had musical talent until he started exploring the different software we offered. Now he's recording his own music and mixing tracks that are incredibly good. He's extremely talented."
Marc is just one of the many teens Gail sees in the Media Workshop each week. Some come in after school or on the weekends to explore the latest digital technologies. Some come in to complete a class project using professional equipment and software unavailable to them at home or in school. Some come in to simply hang out, while others are looking for a safe place to spend a few hours and make new friends.
The Media Workshop is a computer lab geared towards 12-18 year olds with digital skills. The eight touch screens and two professional video stations have Adobe Master Collection CS5, which includes Photoshop, After Effects, Premier Pro, Flash, and more. Musically, the media workshop has Adobe Audition, FL Studio and sound equipment (including Native Instruments' Machine). An HD video camera and sound capturing equipment are also available. The Media Workshop accommodates small groups of eight students or less. Teens are encouraged to stop in and visit the workshop in the evenings 5-7:30 p.m. and on Sundays, noon-4 p.m.
Hang out in the space for a few hours and you'll learn a lot about software and digital technology. (Hint: when the teens are talking about fruity loops they're not talking about cereal, they're talking about a digital audio workstation.) They're using software that allows them to create cinematic visual effects and sophisticated motion graphics. They have access to powerful audio post-production and sound editing applications that allows them to work on audio files and produce advanced multi-track sessions. They're doing everything from designing and animating digital films to composing, arranging, recording, editing, and mixing music.
Meet just a few of the teens and you'll quickly learn that they come from different backgrounds, live on different sides of town, attend different schools and have different interests. Yet, despite their differences, they all agree that they like the "really cool stuff" at the Media Workshop.
Gail talks fondly about the kids from Herron High School who walk over after school and the young girl from Pike who hangs out each week while her dad rehearses in a church band. But his smile got a little bigger when he talked about the "hard kid" who started going down the wrong path, hanging out with the wrong crowd, and eventually got kicked out of school for fighting. Today, that "hard kid" is heading to St. Louis to start a new job. He recently reached out to Gail and thanked him for helping him during a tough time. For that kid, Gail felt like he truly made a difference in his life, beyond being a creative outlet.
"The kids think I'm 'ok' and connect well with me, which is a good thing when we're collaborating and creating their next big project," said Gail. "While I wouldn't consider myself a mentor or counselor, I have felt a few times that I was filling a void in someone's life and maybe even serving as a father figure to some of the teens who don't have dads at home."
No matter the reasons that lead the teens to the Media Workshop, Gail is on-hand to welcome them with open arms and an open mind. He's there to introduce them to the software and equipment offered within the walls of the Media Workshop and helps them explore their creativity. Through the Media Workshop, Gail explains the Central Library is simply keeping up with the trend to keep the library relevant and interesting for teens to visit.
For Marc, the Media Workshop is doing more than that. It's helping him create a portfolio that he can use when applying to college. He wants to attend Ball State University and obtain his bachelor's degree, and then earn his masters at Columbia College. Marc has big dreams and aspirations and he credits the Media Workshop and Gail for pushing and developing him.
"I believe this is where kids can find themselves, try new things and explore their creativity," shared Marc. "I've known for a long time that I've wanted to do something creative, but without this place I wouldn't have known all of what was available to me - and what to do with it. Now I know. Now I have a vision. Now I have a future."
That future includes creating a studio of his own one day: Infinite AURA, which stands for Artists Unleashing Remarkable Ability. "It will be a studio by artists for artists," explains Marc.
Like the Media Workshop in the Learning Curve, Marc wants to create a place for artists with different interests and different crafts - a place where they can develop their talents and collaborate on projects. But first, he has several unfinished projects he wants to complete at the Media Workshop, including making an album, featuring 20 different melodies, and creating a 30 second animated spot featuring personal stories.
Ask him what he likes most of about the Media Workshop and this talkative, talented teen finds himself nearly speechless. With so much to offer and so much to explore, Marc finds it hard to choose just one thing he likes most. He did, however, quickly come up with his favorite project. Last year, Marc entered the 5-Hour Energy video competition and while his video didn't win, it fueled his creative and competitive spirit. He now finds himself searching for new contests to enter - contests that push his creative boundaries, with the hopes of getting his work noticed. Contests he can enter by using the technology available to him at the Media Workshop.
Like Marc, many teens come to the Learning Curve's Media Workshop expecting to focus on one thing, one type of software or one tool to help them further develop their talent. Yet, a tour of the space and an introduction of the technologies available to them and the teens find themselves with unlimited opportunities to help them unleash their creativity.
Check out more videos on the Learning Curve YouTube Page.