For a girl not even finished with college—she’s got a semester left at Columbia—Lily Kwong has a pretty fair number of achievements already under her belt. She’s worked at the studio of her cousin, Joseph Altuzarra; in magazines, at GQ; kept an enviably packed social calendar; and modeled on the runways. But if that weren’t all enough, there’s her latest project, working with public school kids with the nonprofit JAM (Jamboree for Arts and Music). Produced by Nuvana—a gaming development company that has produced educational games for Nickelodeon and PBS—JAM creates arts-centric assignments for students (everything from creating a piece of public art to visiting a local museum exhibition and reinterpreting a piece), which can then be shared via its own social network. Partnering with local institutions during the pilot run, JAM sent kids to sites like the Bronx Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, and the New Museum in New York, and SFMoMA and the De Young Museum in San Francisco.
Over the weekend, the highest-achieving participants in the program were invited to the first JAM Lab, a day-long workshop focused on producing a photo shoot, taking its cues from a world Kwong knows well: fashion editorial. Mentors like Garance Doré, Vena Cava’s Lisa Mayock, Shipley & Halmos’ Sam Shipley, model Claudia Mason, and performance artist Ryan McNamara stopped by to offer their advice on shooting, styling, and posing. “With arts and music programs dwindling in public schools, we need [JAM] more than ever now,” Kwong said by phone yesterday. “You could really feel that at the JAM Lab event—these kids were so hungry to express themselves and create something. They’re just so inspired by seeing people who make art for a living.”
Drawing in the experts turned out to be easy. “When I asked them, everyone right away said of course,” Kwong said. “Everyone has a story about their first teacher who made an impact on them, or the first time they realized their creative potential. I think everyone walked away feeling really excited to be a part of it.” The amateurs turned out to have plenty to offer their advisers, too. “Fashion has a particular logic and the kids turned it on its head. The kids thought about things we hadn’t thought about, were using props in ways we weren’t expecting, framing things in interesting ways. I think a lot of our mentors walked away with good ideas for upcoming shoots and projects.”