Amanda Keller-Konya  
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School's Out, Forever? 

The series entitled "School's Out, Forever?" explores the issue of permanent school closures.  Although the cause for school closure is often dismissed as purely financial, oftentimes the issue is far more complex.  Several factors contribute to school closure including: environmental hazards, demographic shifts and the school choice movement (especially charter schools).  School closure is an important contemporary issue because of its frequency and lasting effects. Today many elementary schools are closing, and by the end of the decade, middle and high schools are expected to follow. 

I first became interested in school closure during the summer of 2004 while visiting my sister-in-law in Elk River, Idaho.  I took a break from the family visit and left for an exploratory walk around the neighborhood.  I had hoped to make some interesting photographs about the unfamiliar environment I found myself in.  The rural community of Elk River, Idaho greatly contrasted from my city life in Los Angeles.  Shortly into my walk I came across the largest building in Elk River.  Adorning the main entrance a proud sign read “Public School.”  Just below the sign was a window that held panes of broken glass.  After climbing through the overgrown landscape I found the entrance to the building securely locked.  Looking through the windows I saw a mostly vacant building with an occasional, scattered remnant proving the building once housed a thriving school.  I began to photograph the building.  During this photographic exploration I felt haunted by and curious about the secrets held within.  I wished the walls could speak of its history and memory; most importantly I wanted to know why the school had closed.  During the remainder of my visit in Elk River, I returned to the building on two more occasions.  Little did I know I would return to the school in May of 2006 and that my encounter with this school would lead me on a three and a half year journey exploring permanent school closures.

The project includes images from closed school sites in California, Idaho, New Mexico, Texas and Washington. The schools documented in the images were once thriving public spaces.  After a school is permanently closed the once active space becomes private and off limits to the public and in many cases begins a cycle of neighborhood deterioration.  The majority of the population has experienced schools as public places, the images in this series allow the viewer to experience schools as private places. The schools in these images, which are now locked up, gated and marked with “no trespassing signs” challenge the viewer to contemplate their own school experience and question the bureaucracy involved in school closure.  Through photographing the evidence of what has been left behind and providing the story of each school’s closure I hope to educate my viewers about this important social issue.  It is my belief that school communities who are aware of the complexity of the issue can take precautionary steps to minimize the possibility of a closure in their neighborhood.

All images in the series are pigment prints printed on 13” X 19” archival paper; when mounted and framed the images are 21.5” X 25.5.”  Selected images from the “School’s Out, Forever?” project have been exhibited at Terminal 1 in the Los Angeles International Airport, The Houston Center For Photography, The Washington Gallery of Photography, Brentwood School, California State University Northridge’s West Gallery and The Center For Fine Art Photography.

School's Out Book

Signed copies of the “School’s Out, Forever?” book now available.
Soft cover $70.00 plus shipping

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98th Street Elementary
American Theological Seminary
Belmont Learning CenterCabazon ElementaryHughes JH SchoolColman SchoolElk RiverLamb SchoolLucy ReedPasadena UnifiedRenaissance
San Francisco
St. Catherine's



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