PMA student helps contribute to PBS American Portrait project

Visit the PBS American Portrait website, and you’ll likely see submissions that David Jansen helped gather from participants across the country. Jansen, ’22, is a performing and media arts major who’s working remotely as an intern for the show this summer.

After interning at CUNY television last summer, Jansen landed the position with the PBS show, a national storytelling project that invites people from all 50 states and territories to send in photos, videos and text about what it really means to be an American today.

Along with the website, the project is weaving these stories into American Portrait docuseries & TV specials, which air on PBS member stations across the country. The next one can be seen starting Aug. 2.

Jansen’s work on the show has included outreach to potential contributors, as well as editing and compiling videos.

“This is such a great initiative right now because it helps people to see that we’re all in this together. That we have many similarities, no matter our differences,” he said.

His outreach efforts included contacting a number of women in Kentucky, whose partners or sons were incarcerated in Green River Correctional Facility, a prison hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. He worked with them on video submissions to PBS that let others know about what was happening in the prison.

“It was very rewarding to give these moms, wives and girlfriends a platform to share their stories when they didn’t know where to turn,” he said. “Media can give people a voice and help the audience learn, grow and expand their perspectives and ideas about the world.”

Malika Grayson
One of Jansen's illustrations for the 'Wall of Wonder' book, portfolio manager, STEM education advocate and blogger Malika Grayson, M.S. ’14, Ph.D. ’16.
Working from his home in New Jersey this summer, Jansen also proudly shows off the illustrations he created for his peers’ recently-published book, “Wall of Wonder; Cornell Women Leading the Way in Science, Technology and Engineering,” and talks about his studies in international relations, anthropology, Mandarin, communications and media.  At Cornell, he has decided to concentrate on film within the Department of Performing and Media Arts.

“I wanted a broad path of study where I could explore all of my different professional options and possible career choices,” Jansen said about his decision to come to Cornell and to eventually transfer from Cornell’s College of Art, Architecture and Planning to the College of Arts & Sciences.

“I’ve been an artist for as long as I can remember. Cornell gave me the opportunity to explore my creativity and different interests through a wide range of studies in a global environment. I found film is what I am most passionate about because it enables me to express my creativity unlike any other medium. I also find the fast pace of the industry extremely motivating.”

Jansen said digital technology has changed the creative world. Although he is experienced in fine art, he now uses his iPad and stylus to create much of his work, including his illustrations for the “Wall of Wonder“ book.

“In the future, I’m not sure how all of my paths will merge and where I will go, but Cornell is helping me to get to wherever I’m going,” he said.

Jansen’s portfolio website showcases some of his artwork and freelance projects.

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