HENNINGER ART CLASS: VOICES HEARD AND CELEBRATED
September 5 – October 20, 2013
The Syracuse University Art Galleries is pleased to present Henninger Art Class: Voices Heard and Celebrated, an exhibition of artwork by Henninger High School students in the Syracuse City School district, inspired by the exhibition Nyumba ya Sanaa: Works from the Maryknoll Collection. This student display of 18 works of art is the result of community collaboration between SUArt Galleries Director Domenic Iacono, Henninger High School Art Teacher Lori Lizzio, and Stephen Mahan of the Photography and Literacy (P.A.L.) Project.
This project enthralled my students from the beginning. My students connected to the project through the story, the history, the artwork as well as the project itself. The idea was to have my students develop a personal connection to the exhibit’s artwork, and create a piece of artwork reflecting that connection. We felt inspiration could be found in documenting everyday life. They used cameras to tell their stories and from those pictures, used editing software to create artwork.
Students were inspired by the exhibit’s artwork. They found similarities and familiar relationships. Giving my students a project that asked them to visually “speak” freely about their life, friends, boyfriends, etc. was a very cathartic and rewarding process. I enjoyed watching their artistic styles emerge and their confidence grow with this opportunity. My students could also appreciate the opportunity to participate, as it related to the Maryknoll sisters giving people a place to create art when there was no other opportunity to do so. This class is the only opportunity that many of these students have to create as well.
Using other people’s artwork and finding personal connections, brings the common language of art into the classroom. The students were able to see that all artists tell stories, in many different ways. They felt that every voice is heard and important. That was my favorite part of this project. My students were so proud. So proud of the pictures that they created and the process they went through to create them. The excitement of having a voice in this exhibit and taking the pictures, learning to edit pictures and using the technology to create art really drove this project. They spent a lot of time working on it, and had fun in the process. They were in great dialogues about it beyond class time, as well as during class. The artwork is an honest look at the voices of my students. The collection tells their stories, in more layers than I think they realize. I am a proud teacher of what they had to say.
It was such a cool project, one that my students felt represented who they are, and what they want to say. Their voices were heard and celebrated. I am forever grateful for that opportunity provided to them.
Henninger High School
Photography and Literacy (PAL) Project is a comprehensive program that is housed in and utilizes the Community Art Spaces at Syracuse University’s Warehouse. PAL Project’s public access after school studio program focuses on experiential learning. With digital cameras and journals, PAL students learn storytelling techniques and media skills that trigger critical thinking and self-expression, building multiple literacy and self-esteem as they explore their outside world and inner selves. In connecting image making with writing and critical thinking, PAL Project promotes an expansive use of digital media and creative writing across curricula and disciplines. In a sustained partnership with numerous Syracuse City School District schools and community organizations, the program provides a creative outlet for hundreds of students annually.
This past spring PAL Project partnered with SUArt Gallery and Lori Lizzio’s art class from Henninger High School using the Art Gallery’s collection of prints from the Tanzanian Maryknoll sisters as a creative springboard and inspiration to document what they felt were distinctive moments from their daily lives. Using simple point and shoot cameras and basic Photoshop skills the students highlighted personally meaningful moments, scenes or people of their daily lives; much as the Tanzanian artist had done using printing techniques.
It is often through noticing or pointing to the small or seemingly insignificant moments and details of the everyday that help us connect to our present, and it is through the shared recognition of lived experience that we come to make sense of who we are. Concentration and attention to our surroundings heightens awareness. Heightened awareness creates an engagement with ordinary life, which has a political dimension, offering a voice to the silenced and proposing possibilities for change.
“The banal, the quotidian, the obvious, the common, the ordinary, the background noise, the habitual? How are we to speak of these common things, how to track them down, how to flush them out, wrest them from the dross in which they are mired, how to give them meaning, a tongue, to let them, finally speak of what it is, who we are.” Georges Perec, Species of Spaces, 1974