CMA Stories

Get to Know Teaching Artist Zack Filkoff!

Zack Filkoff is a NYC-based photographer and CMA Teaching Artist in the Media Lab. See more of his work at and follow along at @low.end.project. Share your thoughts on how art can change the world using the hashtag #CMACIVICKIDS!

What is civic engagement, in your own words?
When you take from your community in a way, such as meeting members and learning from them, then giving back to your community in a way that is based on what you have taken.

Why is it important for an institution to encourage civic engagement?
To earn respect from your community as an institution, you have a right to cater to that community. It is better to build relationships with the people and other institutions around you than to isolate yourself. In the long run, it makes the institution more sustainable and the community more sustainable as well.

Why is it important to encourage children to become engaged?
Children should learn the benefits of building bridges with one another. They will begin to see that they can achieve so much more when they engage with the resources and people they have around them.

What strategies do you use to encourage kids in civil engagement?
I encourage students to lead activities and help their friends figure out how to make something if I notice that a student may be a good teacher or have a strength worth sharing.

How can art + technology help create a dialogue about civic engagement themes?
Art and technology foster important questions and facilitate communication needed in order to answer such questions.

What is most challenging about educating kids in civil engagement?
It’s hard sometimes for kids to see the “big picture.” Sometimes kids can be introverts!

How do you address civic engagement in your own art practice?
I mainly do photography, in which the integral rule of photography is that to take a picture of a place or person, you must be present. You have to actually be in that place to take a picture of it. Or be having a conversation with someone to take their portrait. I have also been creating visuals as backdrops for live music acts. I feel proud that I’m creating something that can only be seen in a live event space with other people who have come out to support the community.

Have you learned anything about your own practice or civic engagement through working with children?
I try to remember what it’s like to be a kid and try everything that is possible when doing my own art.

This program is supported, in part, by the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts with support of Governor Andrew Cuomo, and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. CIVICKIDS is sponsored by Google.



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