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AmeriCorps Week 2016 School Spotlight: Gilbert Stuart Middle School

Our students experienced the very thing that Kelsey Montague had hoped to inspire- an elimination of fear of creating and viewing art

AmeriCorps TTAP Teaching Artist, Grace Ludmer, gives us the scoop on an interactive street art design project happening at Gilbert Stuart Middle School. To learn more about our AmeriCorps TTAP Project, click here

Kelsey Montague is an artist interested in the intersection of interactive art, street art and social media. She is known for her “What Lifts You” campaign, a public art installation that combines all three of these components. For this project, she paints large intricately detailed wings in white paint on a black background. People who view her work are encouraged to pose in front of the wings and take a picture for personal social media platforms with the hashtag #whatliftsyou. Kelsey believes physical interaction and social media play important roles in eliminating fear and barriers around art. By creating these works she is hoping to include as many people into the creative process.

Our students have engaged in projects inspired by street art, like when we created our classroom mural. We were challenged to turn a blighted space into something constructive. My students, ignited by the task, took the initiative to interview teachers, friends, and administrators in order to conceive a positive new design. They decided on the theme, “I am because you are,” which comes from the Ubuntu philosophy of human kindness. Their design included these words and a geometric pattern in which different colored shapes fit perfectly into one another. It turned out beautifully and there was a genuine sense of pride when the project was completed.

Inspired by the success of our mural and Kelsey Montague’s street art, we decided to introduce a fun day project to our students to continue learning about the potential of public art. We split our class into several groups. We challenged each group to come up with an interactive street art design that included a positive message. The design had to be drawn on large butcher paper and would hang in the hallway outside our classroom.

First, our students created thumbnails of possible designs for their display. Each student contributed an idea to the group. After reviewing all their thumbnails they either chose their favorite design or created a new one together. Then, they sketched their design on butcher paper with pencil. Some students laid on top of the butcher paper, considering where people might pose next to their work. This physical interaction with the large work was exciting. Students were eager to take off their shoes and interact with their work like they had never done before. Next, students colored in their designs with markers or colored pencils.

The last step was the most exciting for me to watch as the teacher. When they completed their design, students brought their work out to the hallway to hang up. A lot of the students were nervous to show their design. However, I saw their fears slip away when friends from other programs complimented their work then posing and taking pictures. Our students experienced the very thing that Kelsey Montague had hoped to inspire: an elimination of fear of creating and viewing art.