Creativity always plays a huge part in our youth programs at University Settlement. Our students get to work with teaching artists throughout the year, using their passion and creativity to address a wide array of social and emotional matters they often deal with throughout the day at school or home. Our staff can get in on the action too, through Play Tank – University Settlement's after-school staff performance ensemble and professional development group.
Recently students and staff at our Beacon program had an incredible opportunity to create a massive mural while beautifying the outside of their building. The students created a series of portraits with TED Prize winner JR, the founder of Inside Out. Inside Out is a worldwide participatory art project that as of today has created over 100,000 posters in more than 110 countries.
JR's mission, which was announced during a TED Talk in 2011, is to change the world through art and give people around the globe a chance to show society their true face. After watching the TED Talk in class, our Beacon Art Teacher Cheryl had the students break into groups to discuss things that they see as important in the world.
By asking questions like, "What are things that you would stand for or against?" the students realized that their lives are bigger than iPhones, Justin Bieber and the latest celebrity gossip. Cheryl wanted the class to understand that they may be kids, but they have a powerful voice – and that voice can use art to evoke change.
After sharing ideas, one topic that came up repeatedly was bullying. As a group the class decided why they stand against bullying and why it should be plastered on the side of the school. It's a courageous move and it takes a lot of bravery to put your face on the side of the building – but our students were prepared.
Ultimately, when it came time to take the photos, Cheryl encouraged the kids to make a "strong face" (as JR encourages) that would maybe make someone who was having a bad day feel better. The class took images looking at each other to create a sense of community. Now if you walk past our Beacon in the East Village, you will see people high-fiving, making funny faces, or giving their friend a crazy face. Mission accomplished by our Beacon students and JR!
Learn more about Inside Out here!