Baxter St at the Camera Club of New York (CCNY) and National YoungArts Foundation (YoungArts) are delighted to present a screening of Oldtown, a video work by YoungArts alumnus Henry Spritz (2018 winner in Cinematic Arts) and organized by photographer and mentor Gillian Laub.
In his first solo exhibition, Henry Spritz, a 17-year old junior from Portland, Maine and a YoungArts alumnus, presents a single channel video work looking at his hometown, his community, and his friends. This elegiac work, while focusing specifically on Portland, Maine, serves as a visual representation of small town America; where hope prevails despite widespread poverty and a persistent opioid crisis. We had the opportunity to ask Henry about Oldtown
, the inspiration behind his work, and his YoungArts experience.
: What is your work about?
: My work focuses primarily on my home state of Maine, and the struggles and dualities within its culture that are impacting its communities right now. Recently, my work has begun to address issues within my community much more directly, and I hope to continue experimenting with style, music and form while connecting more deeply with real people about real issues. In general, I'm much more interested in capturing a feeling or a sensation with my work than telling a linear narrative, and so creating a specific emotional connection with the viewer is my main goal for each project.
: Can you tell us a bit more about Oldtown
, is my first short film, and the culmination of almost a year of writing, conceptualizing and planning. Ultimately, the film ended up being entirely silent, and the multiple scripts, poems and other written works I had made for the piece were not included, as throughout the process of making the film my creative process changed, and I didn't think a straightforward narrative would represent the story most accurately. I didn't start off with a specific message or story in mind, so the creative process was also a process of discovering what I wanted to say, and in the end, I felt the images and the music said everything necessary.
: What was it like growing up in Portland? Why was it important to you to tell that story?
: Portland is the youngest, largest and most diverse city in Maine, so growing up in Portland I had a very different experience than most Maine kids. The Maine experience has historically been defined by small towns and their traditions, but that narrative is changing as the demographic of Maine changes, and my work focuses on the clash of cultures that occurring right now in Portland and throughout Maine. In addition to the changing culture, issues including poverty and the opioid crisis have created a feeling of entrapment among my generation, and I felt that I needed to address that. It was important for me to make this film, not just to share that feeling with the world, but to also give kids in Maine a piece of art that they could relate to. I think it's easy for kids, especially in Maine, to forget how beautiful their home is, and I wanted the film to focus on settings, objects and events that kids in Maine would be familiar with, but might have learned to reject, and show them in the most beautiful way I could. I think Portland and Maine are incredibly beautiful places, and I wanted to share that through Oldtown
: You recently participated in National YoungArts Week 2018. How was that experience?
: My experience at YoungArts Week was really incredible. In a way, I think its almost unfair to call it a week, as the connections and opportunities that directly came out of that week have continued to and will likely continue to change my life everyday. Seeing the other artists perform and exhibit their work was unbelievable, and in many cases the shows at YoungArts Week were some of the best art shows I've ever seen. The pure inspiration I got just by interacting with and being around so manny incredibly talented people cannot be overstated. Not only that, the hands-on experience I received and the relationships I made with the teachers and other artists were invaluable, especially for someone like me who hasn't had a lot of professional training or connections to professional artists.
Oldtown will be on view from May 15 through May 26, 2018 at Baxter St at CCNY, 126 Baxter Street. The opening reception will be held on Friday May 18th from 6 to 8 pm.