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Report for America is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities.

From Imagery To Sound - Rockford Students Are Learning How To Transform Their Crafts

Image of digital album.

Some Rockford high school students were pushed out of their usual creative territories in efforts to design something unique.  

Art students at Auburn High School were tasked with creating a visual art piece and a haiku to complement it. The visual component was then put into software called PIXELSYNTH. This is a synthesizer that turns images into sound. It was developed by artist Olivia Jack. The inspiration came from a Russian invention from the 1930s called an ANS synthesizer. That machine also turned patterns of light into sounds in order to create music.   

The album "Pitter Patter" was the result of the combined art.   

Jason Judd is the co-founder of New Genres Art Space and an art teacher at the school. He explained how he helped students interpret how they should create their black and white images.  

“So, if I were to take a picture of lines, white lines, it would just go ‘bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep' -- right? And go all across,” Judd explained. “So, what we had to work on was making a black and white image that was not only interesting visually, but also interesting through audio, through this synthesizer.” 

Blake Ogden is a senior at the school. He started doing art at age 11. He said he wasn’t all that excited when he heard about the project. 

“I was kind of like, kind of sort of freaking out because it was something a lot different than what I usually make,” Ogden shared. “So I decided to think a little bit more outside the box.” 

His first step was to figure out how to write a haiku. He’s not a poet so he read example poems that helped him along the way. Then he said he thought about a forest and this is what he came up with.

“In a quiet forest,  

pitter patter, pitter patter, 

rain falls.” 

Ogden explained how he drew a few images before getting to the final one.

Credit https://www.newgenresartspace.com/drawing-as-sound
Art by Blake Ogden.

“The focal point was like, the rocks, then the water dripping down, trees on the side. Like, vines everywhere with some leaves and stuff like that.”

Judd agreed that the project was different and that many students looked like a deer in the headlights when learning about the task.  

“This isn't watercolor. This isn't graphite and charcoal. This is a really complex art assignment or project that has many different facets,” he said. “It's about trust. It's about trusting me, it's about me trusting them.” 

Taylor-Jade Laig-Duran is a high school junior. She also took part in the project. She normally sketches but the downtime during the pandemic made her want to do more. So she explored digital art.  

Laig-Duran mentioned that her poem lyrics speak about love and pain. She used these words to inspire alterations to her original image. 

“Odd eyes follow fears 

Choose the side of love and fate 

Or the side of pain.” 

She described her process for bringing things together.  

“So then, I really had to like, edit, copy it, and then like, flip it upside down, and then like, change the scenery of both sides, because it'll show like, the top is like the good side,” she said. “And the bottom is like, 'what happens if I make this choice?'"  

Credit https://www.newgenresartspace.com/drawing-as-sound
Art by Taylor-Jade Laig-Duran.

Judd didn’t make the students do the project on their own. He brought in Chicago artist Allen Moore to help. Judd suggested that Moore’s evolution as an artist was the perfect example for this album project. 

Moore is also an educator who works with sound. He said working with children is his passion and expressed that he learned a lot from the students in Judd’s class.   

“I think adults, we forget how we were when we were that age, and how like, we perceive things. And we maybe weren't able to articulate it, but we could definitely perceive it,” Moore said. “And so, we forget how smart and intelligent like young folks are.” 

Laig-Duran explained that she loved working with Moore because he didn’t force the class to emulate his style but allowed them to create freely.   

Moore said he believes that if an artist is caught up with pleasing someone else, they may not enjoy the creative process.   

Moore also emphasized that it’s very important for artists to get out and connect during this pandemic. He said it’s not natural for young people to be confined to the house and he feels they are suffering the most in this new social world.  

Judd said the experience with working with students this summer at New Genres Art Space made him want to go deeper in the classroom. He said connecting students with artists in that environment is something he will try to do throughout the school year.  

  • Yvonne Boose is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.
Yvonne covers artistic, cultural, and spiritual expressions in the COVID-19 era. This could include how members of community cultural groups are finding creative and innovative ways to enrich their personal lives through these expressions individually and within the context of their larger communities. Boose is a recent graduate of the Illinois Media School and returns to journalism after a career in the corporate world.