Oh Allston, My Allston

Lights, camera, Allston.

Lights, camera, Allston.

Allston Brighton Arts Bridge, a new non-profit organization founded by four recent graduates of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, is giving local youth a chance to take command behind the camera.

The program offers a documentary filmmaking class called “My Allston Brighton” that teaches local youth filmmaking techniques.


Allston Brighton Arts Bridge was originally conceived as a part of a class at HGSE. The founders were able to transform their fantasy assignment into a functioning non-profit due to a grant from the Harvard Allston Partnership Fund. “I think a big thing for the four of us is that we are fundamentally doers, not just talkers,” said Kimberly L. Dawson, one of the four Allston Brighton Arts Bridge founders.

The program’s mission is to improve arts education and build community in the Allston Brighton area. It is part of the University’s larger effort to aid these communities as it works to expand into them.

Harvard’s Allston Initiative, the group that administers grants to projects such as Allston Brighton Arts Bridge, initially prepared the town for the several new buildings that were slated for construction in Allston as Harvard continues its expansion. Due to the economic downturn and numerous cuts in the University’s operating budgets, however, most of these projects have been delayed.

“I think it’s been very difficult for the Allston Brighton community to adjust to the idea that Harvard was coming, and then to adjust to the idea that they were not coming, or at least not as quickly. I think it has left some wounds,” said Steve M. Seidel, the professor of the class in which the founders prepared the project that led to Allston Brighton Arts Bridge. Seidel is also a member of the organization’s Board of Directors.

By interacting closely with the community and remaining receptive of new ideas, the Arts Bridge directors hope to build ties not only between Harvard and Allston, but also among town residents themselves.

“We’ve approached all of this work from a place of listening. We don’t pretend to know the answers, but we want to help these people find answers,” said Dawson.


The Arts Bridge documentary class, “My Allston Brighton,” teaches local teenagers how to use video equipment and guides them through the process of creating their own documentaries about the community.

With the program featuring guest artists from several areas of the film industry, such as director and filmmaker Austin de Besche, participants have a wide range of role models and skills from which to draw.

“The challenge is getting kids in the room” said Angelica A. Brisk, one of the founders of Arts Bridge, and the head teacher of “My Allston Brighton.”

Currently, she said that between nine and 15 students attend each week.

“I’ve gotten hooked on filming since coming to this class,” said 13-year-old Lucero U. Price. “They just make it really fun and interesting.”

Price hopes to create a documentary that features local people’s perspectives on various subjects by the end of the course. Other potential topics for films include a look at the refugee community in the area and a profile of a local tattoo parlor.


Looking toward the future, Arts Bridge hopes to offer many more classes, not only to teenagers, but also to younger children, adults, and senior citizens.

While Arts Bridge currently holds classes in a local library, the organization’s leaders intend to find a permanent space of their own.

“Within five years we hope to have a strong physical presence in the neighborhood, which we don’t have yet,” said Maura T. Gattuso, another founder and director.

For now, the “My Allston Brighton” class is focusing on fulfilling what the organization’s leaders perceive as a significant need for arts education. They hope that the program will help students think creatively and allow them to view the places around them in a whole new light.

“A lot of times we don’t think about the stories that we have to tell in the places where we live,” said Brisk.