General Musings

How I got woke: United Way x Gen Next Calgary’s UEP

May 30, 2019
UEP2017 at Paper ST
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I haven’t posted anything on my blog for over 2 years! Before I fade back into my trashy TV obsession, I really wanted to let everyone know about this truly awesome photography program in #yyc. At the time I joined the United Way/Gen Next Calgary’s Urban Exposure Project, I was overwhelmed, starting a new job and trying to strike that never attainable work/life balance.

But every Wednesday for about 3 months, I was excited to meet this eclectic group of young professionals to venture into our urban jungle and capture the essence of our city—struggles and all.

I came in with the slight hope of finally taking the focused time to learn how to use the camera I spent too much money on. By the end, I left feeling grateful, empowered and hopeful from all the incredible people and organizations we met along the way. These were organizations doing the real hard work to make our city a wonderful place to call home. Organizations which we would have never stumbled upon on our own. Ones that existed right alongside us, but just outside of our experience.

Had we not been given the opportunity to go behind the scenes with the UEP, I don’t know if I would have ever realized how specific, advanced and effective the support programs in our city are and how important funding is to their continued success.

At the end of each group’s journey, there’s a UEP photo exhibit/wrap party, which is quite the hip soiree and an opportunity to invite your friends and fam to see your photo boards and mingle with a cool crowd.  It’s so interesting to see each participant’s creative twist on the project. Proceeds go to the United Way in support of the many amazing local charitable organizations in our city. This year it’s the 10th anniversary! Along with tasty appies and the photo exhibit, there will be a marketplace where local vendors will contribute 10% of their proceeds to the organization!

10th Anniversary Urban Exposure Project Exhibit
Wednesday, July 19
5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
The Pioneer (117 8 Ave SW)

Watch out for registration for UEP2020 here.

Here’s a link to see my board from UEP2017! I also pasted the text and photos below.
Your girl also made it into their strategic plan!  (Check out my “Blue skies ahead” photo on page 15 of the 2018-2022 Strategic Plan, United Way Calgary and Area.)

Michelle’s UEP2017 photoboard

BIO: Michelle Seto is a local communicator and blogger who’s passionate about her hometown of Calgary. Like many millennials born-and-raised in the city, she left her suburban roots to become an urbanite on the pulse of all things #yyc. You can find Michelle perusing racks of vintage clothing, lining up for the latest eatery or connecting with her Chinese-Canadian heritage at dim sum.

PHOTO NARRATIVE: I am Calgary. We are Calgary. The United Way’s Urban Exposure Project illuminates this concept with the power and impact of collective action. The program connects participants to the many passionate individuals and organizations in our community who work towards the same vision — a great city for all.

Whether it be through efforts to overcome poverty or to support the success of children, to build extraordinary communities, we first have to know our communities.

This means opening our eyes and minds to what can be hidden just outside of our own experience. To what can be uncomfortable and unnerving, but immeasurably insightful.

As Calgarians, we share a space, but also a spirit. A single act of kindness from the heart can make the whole city beat stronger.

Disparity and development: Majestic new condo developments shine in the skyline as they tower over dilapidated buildings in Victoria Park.

Cash corner after hours: Once a meeting place for unemployed labourers after the Second World War, cash corner continues to be a last resort for employment. As the sun sets, the long line dissipates, only to form again at daybreak.

Downtown diversity: Calgary’s Chinatown has survived the threat of gentrification and the encroaching downtown business district. It remains a cultural hub for all Calgarians to embrace the city’s diverse history.

Blue skies ahead:  The Kahanoff building is home to United Way Calgary and Area and was the base camp for the Urban Exposure Project. The building is owned by a charitable foundation, which donates income earned to charities across Calgary.

The Urban Exposure Project is “an annual photography program that invites participants to learn about social issues impacting our city, while learning how to tell stories through photography. The program includes technical photography training and explores some of our city’s most #unignorable issues.”

Whatcha think!? Still working on that bokeh! Feel free to share any other cool photography programs you know of in the city in the comments!

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