“Photoshop isn’t intuitive.” Ms. Jackie kept telling me. At one point I probably spent 30 minutes trying to find out where the paint brush tool is, but with Ms. Jackie’s patience and my stubbornness I and other members at JAX were able to learn Photoshop and complete a project for the National Youth Radio in less than a week.

I came to JAX during the last few weeks of the program because Ms. Jackie reached out to me due to my background in art and knew I could contribute to the project. I and the other members at JAX were to take photos of abandoned storefronts and recreate them into spaces we wanted to see in our community. We found that there were a lot of bodegas, but not many restaurants, let alone healthy options to eat. You pop into a bodega and the only food options are typically ham and cheese sandwiches, chips, and candy. I’m not saying people can’t eat those foods, but there should be other, healthier options for the community, especially for young kids developing eating habits that they will carry on into adulthood. So we decided to recreate these storefronts into healthy restaurants catering to the local culture, a plant and animal shelter, a laser tag space and a gym featuring a juice bar and a rock climbing wall.

I felt that this project hit home, not only because Jersey City is my home, but also because as a young artist I was able to create something that contributed to my community. As one of the visual artists on this project, I used photoshop to recreate an old abandoned bank that had beautiful architecture into a gym which included a rock climbing wall. I figured that the closest gyms nearby were far, and difficult to get to using public transportation, let alone a rock climbing gym. Knowing people that are turned off by gyms, I thought that adding a rock climbing wall within the gym would attract people because it’s a different form of exercise. When I had gotten to using Photoshop to draw the bank and add new additions for a gym, I had clearly underestimated the amount of experience and skill I had with Photoshop. I’d delete layers by accident, turn the whole image orange, and became a bit frustrated by my lack of knowledge with Photoshop, but after Ms. Jackie explaining all the nuts and bolts to it I began to see how many different tools I could use. While the artists focused on drawing the new buildings and adding the designs, the other kids at JAX wrote blog explaining the stories behind the new stores. Once all is done, the National Youth Radio would post on their blog the project we’d done.

I hope that readers will see what we’ve done to the new storefronts and imagine the possibilities in their own community, I’m hoping that these storefronts might someday become reality.