Since the first humans gathered together, we naturally find our way to chairs around campfires or couches in our living rooms to tell stories. Continuing the tradition, Mosaic Community supported the second episode of the local community listening project, I Don’t Know What You Know, as the non-profit partner.

This partnership provided the exciting opportunity for City High School senior and 2019 Mosaic Mobile first place winner Mariah Barrera to discuss filmmaking and her work with Mosaic at the Listening Room inside Studio Park.

Originated by creative director Angelika Lee, I Don’t Know What You Know celebrates local, diverse stories and focuses on how identities and expertise impact and connect with our community.

“Welcome to our living room,” said Angelika. “We bring people into our space to celebrate community, create platforms for the community to showcase their talents and expertise, while connecting to a greater global context.”

The guest host for February’s event, local DJ and musician Andrea “SuperDre” Wallace talked with Mariah about her process when approaching telling an engaging story through film.

“I have a lot to say, so I have to be intentional for people to understand and empathize with my work,” said Mariah. “In film, there are so many pieces working together beyond just the visual elements. A storyteller understands how different people engage with different pieces of a project.”

Mariah and SuperDre also discussed storytelling through music with Detroit-based musicians, Charity. From her experience of songwriting, Charity and Mariah exchanged their thoughts on sharing experiences and emotions through the mediums of music and film.

Since discovering her passion for creating art at a young age, Mariah continues to seek opportunities and resources to improve her craft.

“Getting involved with community organizations like WMCAT and the Mosaic Film Experience helped me discover my passion,” said Mariah.

WMCAT Video Production Teaching Artist and Program Coordinator Mike Saunders says Mariah started her experience at WMCAT with a camera in her hand in their photography classes.

“I don’t know if there is a student with a better combination of all the right things,” said Mike. “Mariah is a leader in the classroom and never shies away from learning.”

Mariah’s involvement with WMCAT led her to expand her camera skills to include video with a variety of Mosaic projects. Her past collaborations with Mosaic also include creating a PSA for the Mayor’s Greening Initiative and a silent short film with the Opera Grand Rapids for the Grand Rapids Art Museum’s Storytelling Beyond Words series.

In 2017, she placed first in the Mosaic Mobile short film competition and the following year, placed second. In 2019, her Mosaic Mobile film “Red, White & Green” won first place and was played for the audience at the Listening Room.

Mariah expressed gratitude towards Mosaic and WMCAT for giving her the resources to navigate the creative scene as a young person and set her up for success.

“Through their guidance, I learned what I’m capable of and how much fun I have doing the work,” said Mariah.

Mariah channels her strong passion for issues of social injustices into telling stories, featuring themes of identity and family.

“If I have a voice, I need to use it to talk about important things and create narratives around social issues, including my own story,” said Mariah.

Mike echoed the strength of Mariah’s personal and family values.

He said, “Mariah knows who she is and what she values. She is fearless about creating within systems greater than her and brings in her personal experiences.”

Mosaic Community continues to grow its creative partnerships within the community to build platforms and relinquish barriers for young people, like Mariah, to tell their stories. If there isn’t a seat at the table, pull one up – your voice, story, and ideas matter.

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