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Visual Media & Graphics

graphic of two faces

Chapter 5. Rollin’ and Dustin’: Using Graphic Images to Disseminate Study Results to Participant Communities

Jean J. Schensul, Colleen Coleman, Sarah Diamond, Raul Pino, Alessander Rey Bermudez,

Orlando Velazco, Regina Blake, and Noelle Bessette

Colleen Coleman is an interdisciplinary artist working in Brooklyn. Having completed her Masters of Fine Arts in Sculpture, at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Colleen’s work explores multiple aspects of life and consciousness, as well as the dynamics of human interaction and environmental changes. She creates installations, performances, prints, and animation. She served as curator of the ICR gallery for more than a decade, trained many new urban artists through ICR’s programs, and helped to integrate health research and artistic expression in work with drug users, youth, and older adults to enhance their voices in the public realm.

Sarah Diamond is a medical anthropologist and folklorist who spent more than six years at the Institute for Community Research, working on several youth- and culture-related projects. She was an ethnographer and co-investigator for the Urban Lifestyles project, and directed Xperience, a CDC-funded arts-based prevention intervention with urban youth conducted in collaboration with the University of Connecticut, Department of Communications. She is currently affiliated with the University of Connecticut’s Center for Health Intervention and Prevention (CHIP) and works to support harm-reduction policies in Connecticut as a private consultant.

We are a collective of artists, anthropologists, and public health popular educators working within a community-based research organization dedicated to using research in collaboration with community partners for social change ( The goal of the organization is to use all of the tools of research to transform ourselves, our partners, and our communities. “Rollin’ and Dustin” represents an experimental/experiential approach to making the results of a ten year research program on contemporary urban youth culture accessible to those who participated in it, their families, and the public.

The story of “Rollin’ and Dustin’” began in 1998, when I (lead author) and others at In Community Research (ICR) discovered that young Latino and African American adults wanted an opportunity to tell their story to sympathetic listeners, and in doing so to reflect on their lives and avoid future trauma. I was drawn to the idea of storytelling and embarked on a search for funding to involve young people in critical narrative and reflection. The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse supported three continuous research projects from 1999 to 2009. Much of the research respected the wishes of these young people by offering opportunities for sharing lives with young researchers like themselves, discussing issues, and even composing, recording, and performing their stories at CD release shows that they themselves organized (Diamond et al., 2009).

Our team membership shifted over time as young researchers moved on in their careers. But those of us who had worked together on the second study (2005-2009) wanted to narrate a larger tale for the public that went beyond our published articles (Schensul, 2005; Singer et al., 2005; Burkholder & Schensul, 2007). Our goal was to create a critical multimedia production that reflected the complex history of our area, the political shifts and trends that affected young people, and the many creative ways that youth found to navigate family situations, the challenges of school, community, drugs, and intimate relationships. Several team members—Orlando Velazco, Rey (Alessandro Rey) Bermudez, Regina Blake, and Elsie Vazquez-Long—were of the same age and from the same urban cohort. In addition to their community research skills, Rey was a dancer, Orlando a hardcore punk musician, Regina a fabric artist, and Colleen Coleman a socially engaged multi-media artist/curator. Together, as social scientists and artists, we struggled to transform a text-and-number-heavy study into what we viewed as “guerrilla” representations: materials that could be staged in settings where young people felt comfortable creating “actions” that provoked discussion and dialogue. Four young African American and Latino college students who had grown up in the area, Rashida Copes, Allan Wagner, and Bildade Augustin, and Kyle Young, a promising young animator and film maker, completed our team. The group was diverse in age, ethnicity, racial identity and complexity, skills and experience—reflecting the composition of the target audience.

We decided to convey the “Hartford story” through two related and highly transportable “products”: an installation consisting of a series of nine-foot-by-three-foot illustrated portable panels and accompanying audiovisual materials plus a series of small media handouts, and a film on ecstasy designed to complement the two-dimensional and somewhat text-heavy panels. The two products afforded the study teams an opportunity to become involved with members of the local community in data analysis and re/presentation. This was very important, since too often the production of knowledge for the science community does not include the voices of those who produce or interpret the knowledge. At the same time, study team members acted as guides and facilitators at installations, and their lived experience and technical knowledge enabled them to interact with audiences more authentically.

Rollin’ and Dustin’: Pathways to Urban Life Styles

Further Resources:

Community Research
Film: “Ecstasy Rising”
Film: Rollin’ Movie – by Noelle

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