Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Through art, East Side High students and faculty show the importance of community

From the EV Grieve inbox...

After being displaced from their building for 4 months, the students, staff and parents of East Side Community High School have come together in a show of strength to create and exhibit almost 1,000 pieces of art celebrating the importance of community.

East Side Community High School was evacuated in September after structural damage was found in the building. The 4 month-long evacuation created chaos and frustration, with hundreds of students and staff split up and relocated to other school sites in the city.

Upon returning to the school building in February, art teachers Leigh Klonsky and Desiree Borrero facilitated a massive school-wide art project around the themes of "home" and "community." Over the course of three weeks, students, parents, teachers, paraprofessionals, administration, and non-teaching staff participated in a series of art making workshops. Through writing and discussion, participants reflected on their individual experiences and relationship to the community. Their reflections inspired the creation of small mixed media artworks, using watercolor, colored pencil, marker and collage.

The artwork will be on display from April 24 – May 10 in the school's art gallery, the Loisaida Art Gallery, on East 11th Street between 1st Avenue and Avenue A. The opening reception is on Wednesday April 24 from 3:30 - 6:30 and is open to the public.

A selection from the exhibition will also be available online here.


As a follow-up, we asked Leigh Klonsky a few questions about the exhibit.

What were you and Desiree hoping to accomplish with this project?

We had two major goals. One was to create an opportunity for everyone who was impacted by the evacuation to be able to reflect on their experience through visual art. Different classes and advisories did activities that helped us all reflect and share our experiences, but expressing yourself through visual art allows for other things to come up, things that might be hard to articulate in words. We wanted to provide an opportunity for people to visualize their experiences.

Another goal was to affirm the importance of every member of our community. By participating in one of the workshops, contributing a piece of art, or coming to the reception, you are affirming your place within our community. Although we are a small school, staff, students and families don't always interact or meet. It was a really special moment, for example, when our school psychologist, a parent and our custodian made art next to each other, after sharing their thoughts about community.

"Home" and "community" mean different things to different people. Did you see any common themes emerge from the artwork?

The workshops were structured to ask 6 questions:

• How does our East Side community represent home to you?
• What did you learn from being away from East Side?
• What does home, our community, the neighborhood, the Lower East Side look like to you?
• What did you miss about our East Side community when we were relocated?
• Is there a specific person or place in our East Side community that makes it home for you?
• What is your ideal vision of a school community?

Common responses discussed the loss of space, middle school students and high school students missing seeing each other, the cultural differences at the relocation sites (metal detectors, different commute, different neighborhood, lack of windows), but the most common response was how East Siders were able to create community wherever they were.

From the students you've talked with, what are some of the things that they took away from the experience of being displaced from their home school?

"Not taking things for granted" was a repeated phrase.

Previously on EV Grieve:
Schools making it work while repairs continue at 420 E. 12th St.

Wall progress at East Side Community School

1 comment:

marjorie said...

Lovely idea, and thanks as always for covering education, especially since I suspect many of your readers are kid-free! East Side Community (and its tireless principal) are a huge asset to our community.