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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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Nonprofit empowers historically marginalized communities

Attendees look at the Ordinarie Heroes art work and photography on display. PHOTO: HANNAH MADEYA ’24/THE HAWK

“Our lens, our story” is the motto that inspired Ordinarie Heroes and St. Joe’s to collaborate and hold the “VisionarIE: Our Lens, Our Story” reception Sept. 8 at the Frances M. Maguire Art Museum.

Ordinarie Heroes is a Black-led nonprofit that mentors Philadelphia youth and aims to empower historically marginalized communities. The “ie” in the name stands for “I’m Enough,” demonstrating how anyone is capable of creating change, said Ronald Toles, founder and executive director of Ordinarie Heroes.

“I’m really passionate about people understanding that there’s a lot of trauma [and] loss happening in the world and that we can do something about it,” Toles said. “Ordinarie Heroes was created as a platform, as a way to take ordinary people and address things that we think that we’re powerless against.”

Ordinarie Heroes students use photography as an outlet for self-expression and to show the world their own light, Toles said.

“It’s young people who want to express themselves and use their creative voice to invite people into what their world is like,” Toles said.

One Ordinarie Heroes student who had his portraits on display was 18-year-old Jaheim Hill. Hill uses photography as a way to show people their inner and outer beauty.

“A lot of people say that photography, when it comes to sports or anything like that, is more of a story to tell. For me, it’s more like a mission to complete,” Hill said. “I like to take a picture of a person and let them know you actually need to see the beauty in yourself.”

Not only did the display have the work of Ordinarie Heroes students, but also work from faculty members of both Ordinarie Heroes and St. Joe’s, including Krista Svalbonas, chair of the art and art history department. Her work most commonly reflects her family lineage and history.

“Photographically, I work with laser cutters, so I laser cut my photographs,” Svalbonas said. “In general, my photography always revolves around personal family history. Both my parents came to the U.S. as refugees right after World War II, so all my latest series deal with that.”

Museum-goer looks at Ordinarie Heroes student, Kyshir Montague. portrait photos at the Frances M. Maguire Art Museum. PHOTO: HANNAH MADEYA ’24/THE HAWK

The photographs on display all reflect real-life situations and injustices. This exhibition gives the youth and faculty the opportunity to share their art and their story on a larger scale, according to Jeanne Bracy, associate director of the Frances M. Maguire Art Museum.

“Some of the stories that they’re telling are very real, but they’re also sensitive subjects,” Bracy said. “That was important to us: to give them a voice, but also do it in a way where everyone feels comfortable and people can learn from them.”

Svalbonas hopes that through the artwork of both faculty and students, people can come to appreciate the storytelling behind art and how it can serve as a greater good.

“I think the main important thing is the healing power of art, and how it can not only heal wounds, but it can also enable you to discover new things about yourself and the world around you,” Svalbonas said.

While the “VisionarIE: Our Lens, Our Story” reception was held Sept. 8, the exhibition will remain open until Sept. 24.

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Hannah Madeya
Hannah Madeya, Features Editor
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