The roaring chorus of Sia’s “Chandelier” filled the upper balcony of Gateway Film Center’s second-floor event space and laughter resonated from all directions. Amid this bustling scene, Quartez Harris, sitting comfortably at a cocktail table toward the back of the room, talked about how he became involved in a project aimed at encouraging youth and young adults to embrace and fulfill their personal goals.
“I think that it takes a lot of courage to inspire someone and I feel like as an artist, it is my moral obligation to inspire and the Get Out Project gives me that form to do that,” said Harris, an award-winning spoken-word artist who graduated from Ohio State with a degree in social work in 2013.
Harris is one of six individuals featured in a series of documentary-style short videos that are produced by an organization called the Get Out Network.
The Get Out Network is an enrichment organization that aims to help youth recognize and develop their professional, social and artistic goals, according to its website. The group has been working on a series of short documentary films, called “The Get Out Project,” which debuted at a viewing party Saturday evening.
Harris said he got involved with “The Get Out Project” after filming a video with LenSight Productions, a filmmaking team composed of OSU graduates David Goodwin and Michael Mullen II.
“I worked with the Lensight Productions for my own personal project titled ‘My Imperfect Brain,’ which is a poem about me dealing with the stigma associated with having a learning disability,” he said.
Harris had an Individualized Education Plan throughout much of his schooling because of disabilities with reading comprehension and writing expression, and learned to channel the emotions associated with these experiences into his spoken-word performance and also into his book “Nothing, But Skin.”
Harris said he hopes audiences who view “The Get Out Project” videos will take inspiration from his story and will be empowered to embrace their talents.
“I personally hope that everyone takes away a purpose,” he said. “I hope that this event helps them to convey their own gifts and talents to realize that anything is possible.”
James Drakeford, who graduated from OSU in 2011 with a degree in physical education, said he has learned a lot from his experience as one of “The Get Out Project”’s featured subjects.
“I learned that there are a lot of different options. Everyone who is involved in the project does something completely different and it is just kind of cool to see people being successful in different avenues because a lot of times, we get kind of narrow-minded and think that we can only do few different things, but really options are limitless,” said Drakeford, a freelance photographer and social activist who works as a manager at a Columbus-based streetwear store called Sole Classics.
In addition to Harris and Drakeford, the Get Out Project featured interviews with Terry “Tertiary” Robertson, a musician; Jasmine Smith, a teacher and artist; Sydney Steward, a hair and makeup stylist at Girl and Guy Republic Hair Salon; and Earl Barron, also known as “DJ Bandcamp,” the official disc jockey for the Indiana Pacers.
Like Harris, Drakeford said he wants to use his role in “The Get Out Project” to inspire others to reach their full potential — two things he tries to convey through his personal philosophy of “like it, do it.” His social movement TIOBS, which stands for “The Idea of Being Somebody” encourages others, “to find self and live a life that results in success and happiness,” according to its website.
“I guess I just tried to encourage and inspire others in any type of way, maybe through something that they get through something I say in the video,” he said. “I hope that they leave inspired in some type of way. Either reminded of their purpose or reminded of their capabilities. Just get inspired to get out and do something on their own, get out and do something like something that they are good at, something that they can enjoy for a long time.”