Arts Are Basic Virtual Gallery

Culler Middle School

Teacher's Statement:
Portrait Assignment
L. Zila
Culler Middle School
Arts Are Basic presented Culler students with a challenging task. “Conceptual Portraiture” was the main focus, and our project was called “iMatter”. Students had to create music videos that spoke of their worth and told their story, or just part of it…

From the beginning of the school year we have been talking about different ways to create a portrait. We discovered that it is not necessarily just a face of a person, but rather many different aspects of a person’s identity such as age, gender, race, religion, spirituality, ability, interests, passions, associations, occupation, geography, socio economic status, political affiliation, wardrobe, language, etc. Portrait can be a verse, a poem, a melodic phrase, nature print, abstract painting, etc. I have shown students my self-portrait, which was just a 11x14 cardboard with ten items attached to it. Those items represented me in different ways. When looking at that collection one could get an idea of who I was, and see the different aspects of my identity. It is a great exercise for anyone, because it helps people to re-evaluate their existence, and concentrate on the positives in their lives.

Students have gone through some exercises in class that helped them see that they are way more than just one or two things:

  • We coded our own names
  • We began exploring many things we identify with
  • We explored the meaning of culture
  • We created our own stories based on a photograph or a painting
  • We took a simple story and in small groups students told it in still picture frames
  • We physicalized our names

We talked about variety of ways to tell a story. The students participated in the workshop with an artist and storyteller Rita Paskowitz and Muslim Hip-Hop dancer Amirah Sackett from Chicago. They also attended two concerts: Black Violin and “The American Revolution” by Theatre Unspeakable. All of these experiences had to do with unique way to tell a story, and with breaking biases that are based on looks, misconceptions, and unfair ideas about different cultures.

The objectives of this project are:

  • To help students recognize and appreciate the everyday works of art around them
  • To help students realize that they are complex individuals, with a rich colorful palette to their identity
  • To empower students by having them realize that their own story matters

The videos are now created. I am hoping that as the students move forward in their life’s journey, they never lose sight of who they are, and know that THEY MATTER!

View the Full Project

Arts and Humanities

Teacher's Statement:
Portrait Assignment
G. Meza
LPS Arts & Humanities Focus Program
We asked our students to think about portraiture throughout history. We asked them to think of the many ways a portrait can tell a story and inform the viewer of the particular subject. We then asked them to take a photo of a classmate they did not know so well, and that person would take one of someone else. Their assignment was then to create a portrait after having a conversation with that person. Questions were asked to get to know their classmate, their likes and dislikes, how they saw themselves, etc. The process and materials for this portrait was up to the artist. They could choose to do a classic portrait but were encouraged to go beyond a basic rendering of that person. Conceptual ideas, use of different media, symbolism were all used in the majority of these portraits. The result was a more complex and thorough understanding of this person through the visual arts.


Waverly High School

Teacher's Statement:
A. Shoemaker
As a Spanish, English, and World Cultures educator, I have the honor of learning from students each day in various contexts and via numerous lenses. The Arts Are Basic program facilitated by Rhea Gill has allowed me to create another window from which I am able to discover students' identity. Arts Are Basic provided a means for me to engage students beyond the curriculum via collaborative narratives in which we share our voices and synergistically strive to create an environment that promotes students' exploration of self, leadership, and legacy. Lauren Hartman, a freshman student in my 2016-2017 homeroom class at Waverly High School, created a video to highlight her portrait as part of a schoolwide Wallflower Project initiative. Through the Wallflower Project, each student established a self-portrait using sundry products, skills, and talents that was displayed in the hallways of Waverly High School. Please enjoy Lauren's masterful, authentic expression of identity.

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