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Sierra Bentti completes the 2017 Art of Teen Leadership: Marquette Photovoice Project

Sierra Bentti

By BRIAN WIBBY

Special to The Journal

MARQUETTE — Sierra Bentti, a junior at Marquette Senior High School, shared her perspective on important community matters through her participation in the 2017 Art of Teen Leadership: Marquette Photovoice Project.

The goal of the project, led by staff from Michigan State University Extension, was to enable youth in the Marquette area to use photography to highlight the aspects of their community they viewed as strengths and opportunities for change.

Bentti’s collection of photographs for the project focused primarily on how the Downtown Marquette Farmers Market serves as a place that brings people together in positive ways. She also wanted to draw attention to what she sees as a big problem in the community: people using their phones while driving a vehicle.

“I hope to show the somber reality of the dangers of texting behind the wheel,” Bentti said. “My other photos are a series or shots from the Marquette farmers market. The farmers’ market is a hub of community life and a highlight of my weekends.”

Participating in the Marquette Photovoice Project helped Bentti develop new skills and thoughts about the community she lives in.

“I love photography and I thought participating in this would be a good way to further my skills,” she said. “I got over my hesitation of taking pictures of the public. I appreciate more aspects of my community now that I have observed with a photographer’s eye.”

In her effort to raise awareness of the prevalence and dangers of texting while driving, Bentti recruited friends to help her re-create a texting while driving situation that she could capture. Her engaging image captures a behavior that many people have witnessed, and many have been guilty of doing.

Her artist’s statement for “Don’t text and drive” read: “In high school I hear many shocking retellings of texting, or more often, Snapchatting while driving. I’m appalled that young adults so carelessly put their life at risk for a six-second thought that won’t be there tomorrow. My picture is a staged model of how the world goes by in a second while you look at your phone. The 10 seconds it took me to take this shot is the same as 10 seconds that could change a life for the worse.”

Bentti’s other photographs, featured in the “Through the Eyes of Our Youth” photo exhibit at the city of Marquette Arts and Culture Center, focused on the products and people that come together every weekend at the Downtown Marquette Farmers Market. These photos capture the variety of products and people that make the farmers’ market a positive, beautiful and valued space for Bentti in the community.

For “The colors of harvest,” this was Bentti’s artist’s statement: “As the man leans forward over his produce, he seems proud of what he has to offer. The squash contrasts nicely against the blue sweatshirt and beige crates. They are the focus of his table as he tries to catch the eyes of passersby.”

Bentti wrote about “Golden Waterfall” in this way: “A woman tilts her face towards the sun as she pauses in sorting her herbs. The mid-morning rays highlight her ginger hair and set the image on fire.”

This picture first draws the viewer to the woman’s hair, then flows to the blue and light green, wrote Bentti, who also noted that since orange and blue are complementary colors,“it’s as if you can’t look away.”

Her artist’s statement for “Generations” read: “An elderly man pushes his wife’s wheelchair through the farmers market, past a stand where a gentleman is sorting his produce. In the background, a news team of young adults is setting up to record a short clip on the farmers’ market. Your eye is drawn to the three people in the front but as the eye wanders, there are more details to notice.”

While reflecting on her participation in the project, Bentti shared her views on the importance of young people engaging as active members and leaders in their community.

“Young people are the new generation,” she said. “We are responsible for our community.”

Bentti also has advice for other young people who want to make a positive difference in their community.

“I suggest observing, volunteering and asking questions,” she said. “Get to the heart of your community and find out where you are needed.”

Bentti’s ideas and photography emphasize the fact that young people care about their community, and they have a unique and valuable perspective to share. When taken into account by current community leaders, this perspective can help to inform planning and decision-making processes that can create communities that attract and retain young people who will be leaders who care about supporting the things they like, and changing the things they don’t, in their communities.