Some would think that a Bachelor’s in Digital Arts, would not be an ideal candidate for a data agency internship. Since I happen to possess such a degree, I had doubts about my application, considering I hadn’t opened Excel before 2017. As a graduate student in Urban Planning, I was just touching the surface when it came to U.S. Census data. Yet, when I sat down with Data You Can Use’s (DYCU) president Katie Pritchard for my interview, I immediately understood DYCU’s mission of connecting local organizations to data, helping them interpret the information and translating it to best serve their needs. To me this sounded exactly like my work in marketing and design. Presenting information in a clearer, more appealing way and helping the clients to reach their audience. Fortunately, Katie agreed that analysis and visualization, or “telling the story,” is needed in the data field. And so, I was brought on for an internship with DYCU. Initially, I supported projects with my skills in photography and design, but was also given opportunities to analyze data directly, which is useful for my intended career in planning. Challenges in this position were expected, but welcome. I was barely familiar with Excel coming in, but I was eager to learn more. I knew that would mean taking educated risks, and making mistakes repeatedly until I got it. However, that is how I learned design software – learning by doing, growing through exploration. This approach, building on small successes, has helped creative types like myself, develop great skills while minimizing frustration. My first project proved an excellent place for this technique. I had the opportunity to discover and identify themes in a survey that explored residents’ opinion on comfort in different neighborhoods. This was part of DYCU’s partnership with the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership and the Turning the Corner initiative. At first, I attempted to use a method I learned in class: pivot tables! I realized that it was over complicated for what was needed. My right-side brain came into play, and I realized that I was overcompensating for what I was missing: tools. Creative tools I had, quantitative ones I lacked. I worked with Carrie, and together we looked for relevant data using simple conditional formatting. Excel became more relatable using basic tools and I was able to find some of the hidden story in the data which I initially missed by focusing on overly complicated method of analysis. A simple truth from the arts also rings true in data fields: the simplest tools work best. The next step was working with Katie, having discussions about what data would be useful and interesting, given our partner’s goals and perspectives. Outside of these challenges of interpreting data, there was great joy seeing where I could lead and offer visualizations to bolster projects. DYCU had been working with the Zilber Family Foundation’s neighborhood initiative to make data portraits for Clarke Square, Lindsay Heights and Layton Boulevard West. In a discussion with the staff of agencies who work in these neighborhoods, someone had the innovative idea to photograph key community destinations that would give context to the statistical data. Over the course of a few days I hopped on my bike and rode to explore each of the Zilber neighborhoods. Each neighborhood had unique opportunities for photos that held beauty and surprises. Some had murals that captured a neighborhood’s distinct culture and energy, others had points of interests ranging from the historic to the eclectic. Within each neighborhood, I found buildings nestled together that depicted the signs of change making its way through Milwaukee. Frequently, I found striking compositions in mom and pop shops situated next to national brand/big box stores. The images were interesting, but the story it could tell when paired with DYCU’s data is what really excited me. This photo project was deemed a success, and I had a second opportunity to look for images of gentrification in neighborhoods being researched by the Turning the Corner project. Katie provided guidance with questions based on qualitative data- what do residents, business owners and people who shop and play in neighborhoods think that gentrification looks like? The photo narratives I captured for the Turning the Corner neighborhoods documented signs of change, both positive and negative and stemmed from the ideas collected from residents and people who walk the streets in these neighborhoods. I intend for these images to honor how these communities have grown and simultaneously show what gentrification can erase: cultural history and sense of community. DYCU has not only been immensely generous over the course of my internship with their praise and use of my photographs in presentations and reports, their access by community organizations, but they have encouraged me to include more data inspired storytelling with my imagery. Photography can readily begin a conversation, but when paired with pointed and purposeful data it can become a catalyst for real long-term change. Thanks to the visual work I have done here on the Turning the Corner initiative, I presesnted a photo narrative on housing as a sign of neighborhood change for the Midwest Interdisciplinary Graduate School conference in February 2018. In summary, I find myself incredibly grateful for the experience afforded by DYCU and will continue to use everything I’ve learned in future projects!