HGN: Memphis Library’s Teen Learning Lab celebrates first anniversary

HGN: Memphis Library’s Teen Learning Lab celebrates first anniversary

On a typical afternoon or weekend day, CLOU901 is open only to participants aged 13 to 18 and their mentors, other than scheduled performances. On Saturday, September 17, however, the Memphis Public Library & Information Center’s so-called “teen learning lab” was open to the public, including those of adult age.

CLOUD901, which was named through a teen survey contest, has now been open in the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library branch for a year. Teenagers, their friends, family, and others in the community came to a special commemoration ceremony to view visual art completed by students, listen to a number of student performances, and just take a tour of the high-tech digs.

The Memphis Library Foundation and a group of partners funded the two-story, $2 million dollar, 8,300 square feet space. According to the foundation, around 150 teens use the space daily.

(The Foundation is a 501c(3) that works to the aid of the Memphis Public Library & Information Center through private support.)

CLOUD901 is unlike the rest of the library with its art supplies and display gallery, 3-D printers, laptops, iPads, audio and video equipment (including a “green screen” for special effects video recording and a music studio), MacBook Pros and Airs, X-Boxes and PlayStations, and a Makerspace.

Students can learn filmmaking, creative writing, music and video production, gaming and coding, robotics, graphic design (with access to the entire Adobe software suite), entrepreneurship skills, as well as have space for performance (including dance, music, or public speaking).

Access to CLOUD901 is free for students; besides the age requirement, the only other requirement is a Memphis Public Library card.

In addition to the access to equipment and workshops, CLOUD901 is designed to be a place with couches and desks where teens can just hang out, do homework, brainstorm, collaborate, and meet with other such as those in student organizations.

Recent events and classes offered in a single week at CLOUD901 included a poetry and spoken word meeting, an introduction to ProTools music production software, a comic book club meeting, a presentation on college preparation and testing, an introductory robotics course, a virtual reality (VR) headset demonstration, a pottery workshop, a singing and songwriting workshop, a workshop offering mobile application simulation, and an illustration course.

With all that is offered many teens say they find themselves coming through the CLOUD901 doors as often as possible.
One of those teens is 14-year-old Angelica Futch. She said that she has been coming to CLOUD901 since last year. A librarian overheard her singing and brought her to the learning lab as a way to develop her musical talent.

Now she comes to CLOUD901 every day from adjacent East High School to work on songs.

Another student partaking in CLOUD901’s musical offerings is 17-year-old Reggie Hawkins, whose artist moniker is B.I.Y. Hawkins, who attends Melrose High School, has been a rapper and R&B singer since the age of 14. He found out about CLOUD901 from a RedZone Ministries administrator in Orange Mound and has been coming every other day for about a year.

In addition to free studio space, professional equipment, and the opportunity to grow their craft, several students mentioned the aspect of community; learning from and supporting one another.

Teens’ experience in CLOUD901 has already started paying tangible dividends. The inaugural Indie Memphis Youth Film Festival on September 24 at the Halloran Center will feature a whiteboard animation, Defeating Depression. The animation began as a concept in CLOUD901. Homeschooled filmmaker Emi Otsuki will compete against nearly two dozen middle and high school filmmakers for $1,000 in cash and the chance to advance to the 19th annual Indie Memphis Film Festival in November.

Also available for viewing at the festival, will be Waterguns, a movie trailer created by CLOUD901 students Jas Marie of East High School and Nubia Yasin of White Station HIgh School, as a non-competition showing.

CLOUD901 is currently open to Memphis teens from 3-8 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturdays, and 1-5 p.m. on Sundays. CLOUD901 is closed on Fridays.

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HGN: Memphis Library’s Teen Learning Lab celebrates first anniversary

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