By Zach Palermo
The interior of the Regional Inter-Faith Association’s new location will be decorated with photography by Union students, thanks to a class project this semester during which students photographed the community.
Formerly housed near the West Tennessee Farmers Market in downtown Jackson, RIFA recently moved to its new location at 133 Airways Blvd.
RIFA is a non-profit organization in Jackson whose leadership has worked with Union before on projects such as “Canstruction,” an annual community event involving building structures out of cans of food.
After the structures are judged, the canned food is donated.
This time, however, RIFA officials approached Union with a request for a photo project.
The assignment was simple: photograph downtown Jackson, both indoors and outdoors, for the walls of RIFA’s new location.
Assistant professor of communication arts Jim Veneman led the photo project. Veneman gave his the students in his four photography classes one week to come up with the photos, and he said they delivered.
“We have never done a project this big for anyone,” Veneman said. “There are a lot of students involved in this project.”
Veneman said he was instructed to make the project about downtown Jackson both generally and with specificity, indoors and outdoors. The photos chosen span all times of day and many kinds of subjects.
Altogether, Veneman’s students produced 767 frames for the exhibit, though only 43 will be used. The frames will be anywhere from 20×20 inches to 40×40 inches.
“[The completed project] will be an exhibit of not only the photograph work but also the relationship that Union has with RIFA,” Veneman said.
RIFA is pleased with the results, but employees are still in the process of paring down the hundreds of submissions.
Communications coordinator Lindsay Dawkins is happy with the outcome.
“From what we’ve seen, we’ve got a lot of good photos,” Dawkins said.
“[The students] had never been downtown,” she said. “They went to places they’ve never seen before.”
RIFA’s Executive Director Lisa Tillman referred to the choice to approach Veneman as “a no-brainer.”
“I just shared a little bit of my vision with him, and he just ran with it,” Tillman said. “He graciously got his students involved.”