Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Owning Your Peace at NHS

This February and March, the community of Needham High School (NHS) is participating in a collaborative schoolwide event designed to initiate dialogue, strengthen ties and promote wellness. As a visiting artist, I am facilitating senior art students in the creation of an interactive collaborative installation that will be activated for two weeks leading up to a school wide SpeakOut event as part of the Own Your Peace program.

Own Your Piece/Peace is a student-driven emotional wellness initiative in its 8th year at NHS. OYP is the way everyone at NHS can take care of themselves and each other. When you own your P-E-A-C-E you understand and respect your individual needs, feelings, and goals, and find healthy ways to face challenge. When you own your P-I-E-C-E you respect other for who they are, reach out to build relationships with those around you, and seek out resources for all.

Two installations invite the community to write messages on strips of fabric about how they 'Own their Piece/Peace', which they knot onto a framework. By honoring each individual student's voice as an integral and important piece of the school's culture, this activity embodies the power of art as connection and reinforces the principles of the OWN YOUR PIECE/PEACE program.

My time with students has been about the 'how-to' of public art installations from concept to production. With a series of brainstorming sessions the students from each of two classes created their own approaches. This state of evolution, like most open ended projects, has been present throughout the process and continues to be assessed daily as the activity is realized.

Working as a team, they determined their objectives and how to incorporate them with the principles of OYP. Parameters covered everything from concept, to material, to color,  to OYP,  to fire codes to maintenance restrictions and more. Tasks were divided between them so that all aspects from advertising, to maintenance, to material prep etc. have been considered and taken responsibility for.

I visited yesterday and today for the first time since last week and am so heartened by their final installations and the buzz they're creating around the school. This has been a true collaborative experience where each student of each class is owning it for themselves and for their community.

I'm grateful to Wendy Hodge and Needham High School Art Department for inviting me, to Needham Educational Foundation (NEF) for their generous support and most importantly the creative force of the senior art students.

One class designed a Cave where participants are invited inside a cocoon-like structure built under the stairs of a popular hangout. It has been a magnet for much socializing and some very interesting conversations.

Teachers are taking time out of their busy schedules and visiting the installations with their classes.
Everyone's interested in this inclusive approach... using art as an entree into healthy discussions.
Each class determined they own ideas, names, statement, location and shape of their project.

The other class installed on a bridge that connects the old building to the new. Enamored with the metaphor of bridging and connecting, they're providing monochromatic strips in shades of purple with the intent of unifying their message. The found gridline existing architecture functions as the foundation for the knotted ties.

Inspired by a public art project with swarms of butterflies that travel all over the world, they encourage people to tie their ties in other meaningful locations in the building and look forward to watching where they aggregate.
These ties will be removed at the end of two weeks. There are plans to sew together into a quilt and displayed. This will commemorate their event and provide opportunity for future events to add to it in the future.
The 'Materials Maintenance' committee makes sure to keep up with supplies with multiple check-ins each day.
Students walking by and stopping to leave a note.

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