This fall, Young Audiences visual artist Danyett Tucker worked with John Hanson Montessori middle school students to create a mural that now brightens their school hallway.
The theme for the eight, two- by four-foot wood panels is “Earth’s Treasures.” Danyett explains how the project began:
“I Googled “earth’s treasures” and found [the poem] ‘A Lunar Lament’ by Ann Pedtke. After I read the poem to the class for inspiration, I asked them to imagine that they were the moon looking down upon the earth, marveling at its treasures. What treasures would make you a jealous moon? They came up with some great sketches, which I pieced together into our mural composition, all from the moon’s perspective.”
The four week-long residency was a powerful experience for all involved. Danyett writes, “I am so proud of the students at John Hanson Montessori. They are creative, focused, and fun! They made me feel like a part of their family.”
By Cyan McMillian, seventh-grade student, Windsor Hills Elementary/Middle
My name is Cyan McMillian and I am a seventh grader at Windsor Hills. I’d rather throw a football than paint my nails (seriously). I felt like a free spirit until my tenth birthday–which was the worst day ever. I was excited but made the mistake of not bringing enough cupcakes for the whole class. One girl–the drama queen–decided to take out her frustrations on me. She waited until we got in the cafeteria and took a mixture of yogurt, milk, juice, and water and poured it over my head in front of everyone. On my birthday! Everyone who saw it laughed. Even the adults. I was so hurt and embarrassed that I ran out of the cafeteria in tears.
I never wanted any friends after that. The more I tried to be myself the more I would get picked on. Bullies targeted me for all the ways that I was different–my weight, my clothes, and my love for school.
My parents signed me up for the Baltimore City summer learning academy, the summer before middle school started. I like math and science, but I was most interested in the art classes provided by Young Audiences. See, I don’t get to enjoy the liberties of art during the school year. Having art every day during the summer was a treat because I got to make new friends, I learned how to use the color wheel, how to make 2D pictures become 3D pictures.
My art class was taught by Young Audiences teaching artist, Danyett Tucker. She played a song by Lauryn Hill called “Everything is Everything,” and asked us to illustrate what the lyrics meant to us. I love that song. It was like math because my hands and brain were working at the same time to solve a problem. I was able to express myself without being judged in a way that was fun and challenging. I learned from Ms. D that there is no “right” or “wrong” when it comes to art.
Ms. D believed in me and gave me the confidence to believe in myself. She let me come to her when I needed someone to talk to and gave me helpful advice when I was stuck. I was free to be who I am again, which made me feel like my old happy-go-lucky free-spirited self.
Ms. D inspired me to keep drawing after the program was over. My dad loves to draw and after that summer we started drawing together. When I found out the summer program was going to happen again this summer, I found out where Ms. D was teaching and signed up. This summer was even better because not only did I get art with Ms. D, other artists also helped teach the science and math classes. I learned how ratios relate to music and how dance movements connect with science.
In Ms. D’s class, we created a mural that’s displayed here today illustrating Maya Angelou’s poem, “A Brave and Startling Truth.” The poem was confusing at first but the more we read it as a class it became easier to understand and inspired me to speak out about the positive and negative things that happen around me. I was able to use my voice through illustration again. I attended this program every single day and now I have two murals in my portfolio.
Now when I feel like I have something to express but don’t know how to say it, I draw it out. Thanks to Young Audiences, I have learned a lot about myself. I’m more observant and I know what a real friend is. I know who I am. So what if I’m not a girly girl, I’m fast and I can handle my business. When they call my clothes trashy, I don’t let it bother me because their shiny white sneakers always end up dirty in a few days. And when they talk about my weight, like the song “All About That Bass” says: “Every inch of me is perfect from the bottom to the top!”
Last year I had the highest grade point average in middle school and it is still sky-high. I have a scholarship to any college that I want. I plan to get a PhD and work for NASA. Thanks to the support of my family, a few good friends, and the Young Audiences artists who understand me like a parent would, I am going for my dreams. And while the summer program is over, what I learned from Ms. D, that “Everything is Everything,” will stay with me forever. What that means to me is that if you want to be something and you work hard, you will most likely become that. So keep an eye out for me.
On a Monday afternoon in late June, students filled the Goodnow Community Center for the Summer Showcase, a vibrant display of visual and performing arts. The art shown was created by students, families, and community members through programs with Young Audiences teaching artists. Young Audiences has partnered with Goodnow since 2008 to bring a combination of arts assembly and residency programs to students attending the spring afterschool and summer programs at the center, which are made possible through generous funding from the Macht Fund of THE ASSOCIATED.
“We’re very fortunate that we have been able to have Young Audiences work with the Goodnow Community Center for the past six years,” said Gloria Jenkins, director of the center. “Our children have grown through their help.”
Those who stopped by the Summer Showcase got a taste of Young Audiences’ programs immediately when walking through the door, as students’ photographs taken with artist Christina Delgado were displayed by the entrance. These stunning images varied from full portraits to up-close snapshots.
First to perform at the showcase was Young Audiences roster ensemble Illstyle and Peace Productions, a dance company whose work focuses on the movement and spirit of Hip Hop. In her introduction for the group, Gloria noted, “When we’re planning events, the students always remind me to ‘get those boys that dance.’”
Illstyle and Peace Productions’ performance, titled NO Bullying, STOP Bullying: Let’s Be Friends, incorporated contemporary and old school dance moves with the positive message of acceptance. Throughout the show, cheers could be heard from all corners of the packed room. The program’s message was clear: when asked why they shouldn’t bully others, students passionately replied that they should treat others the way they want to be treated.
Acting as a backdrop for Illstyle and Peace Productions’ performance was a mural students created with the help of Young Audiences visual artist Danyett Tucker. “We came together and thought of a positive message we wanted to share with the community,” Danyett explained. The students decided on a quote from Harriet Tubman about following your dreams:
Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.
“We’re hoping that it will be used in performances for years to come,” said Danyett of the final product.
Coming together as a village and a community was the theme of the afternoon. It was especially prevalent during the unveiling of the “Mural Without Borders” artwork adorning the Goodnow Community Center’s facade. A sixth-month-long project, the work was created by members of the community with ceramic artist Herb Massie. It depicts the community’s past and present.
“The mural involved different aspects of the community to help put it together,” Rev. Kevin Bacon, Baltimore City Fire Dept. Chaplain said. “Police officers, the church, and schools all got involved.”
Retired Baltimore City Police Officer Craig Singleterry added, “People always say it takes a village. Well, this is our village.”
Though the project brought together all members of the community, it seemed to especially impact students. Rita Crews, a teacher at Hazelwood Elementary who helped students with the mural, shared, “The students were always eager to come in, even on Saturdays. They were the ones reminding me that we had to get to work.”
Barbara Combs, artist and art educator, believes that this interest in art has a practical application, noting that there “isn’t any career that art doesn’t touch.”
For Officer Singleterry, it’s also about showing students that they can do more. “Programs like these give students a new outlook on what they can do, from poetry to dance to music,” he said. “Young Audiences has brought more into their view.”
During the past few weeks, nearly 150 middle school students have dived into math and science concepts through the arts at the Young Audiences and Baltimore City Public Schools 22nd Century Pioneers Arts-Based Summer Camp. Students have learned how ratios are used in photography and how the physics of sound affect each note played on a steel drum. Through these art forms, and many more, students have been engaged in learning this summer so that they are prepared to hit the ground running this school year.
While most of the learning goes on inside the school, students have also had the opportunity to take their knowledge beyond the classroom walls on field trips. These excursions allow students to continue their hands-on learning in a new atmosphere, applying the skills and knowledge they’ve acquired throughout the summer.
The first trip was a visit to the Baltimore Museum of Industry, where students learned the ins and outs of technology and put their own engineering skills to the test. In one activity, students worked together in small groups to create a track that would carry a wooden ball and drop it into a can. This required them to go through the five steps of solving an engineering problem: plan, get materials, build, test, fix, and re-rest. Students were forced to adjust and readjust their designs before finally reaching their goal, usually resulting in loud cheers.
Students received another challenge: creating an artistic interpretation of the word industry. Groups joined together, combining their knowledge and creativity to come up with dances, skits, and songs that showed what they had learned that day.
The following week, students traveled to Baltimore’s Artscape, America’s largest free arts festival organized by the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts. Surrounded by artists of all disciplines, the students put on a show of their own at the Station North Stage, showcasing what they’ve been working on during their arts enrichment classes. The show opened with a lively Hip Hop dance performance from Jamaal Collier and Alicia Shaw’s Hip Hop class. After the performance, one student explained the four pillars of Hip Hop, the most important one being knowledge. Next, Valerie Branch and Heather Tuttle’s dance class got the crowd cheering with a dance set to Ariana Grande and Iggy Azelea’s “Problem.” Kevin Martin and Kevin Older’s students also got to show off their steel drum skills.
Even those who didn’t perform on stage took part in their own form of art-making. Throughout the day, Christina Delgado’s photography students captured Artscape from behind the lens, while Danyett Tucker’s illustration students filled up their sketchbooks with drawings of everything from festival attendees to graffiti on buildings.
Bridget Cavaiola’s improv class performed an exercise called “Improv Everywhere.” All over the festival, they held compliment battles, gave flowers to strangers, and posed as wax statues, making them the target of many curious stares and even a few pictures. See this group in action in the video below!
The school year may have ended, but for Young Audiences, that doesn’t mean the fun, arts-integrated learning stops. Young Audiences has again partnered with Baltimore City Public Schools to bring arts enrichment activities to seven Baltimore City 22nd Century Pioneers Arts-Based Summer Camp sites. In addition, for the first time Young Audiences is also managing an eighth completely arts-integrated camp site at Edmondson Westside High School. The 22nd Century Pioneers Summer Camp is free to Baltimore City Public Schools middle school students.
At the Young Audiences camp, nearly 150 students will explore math and science concepts through the arts in classes and arts enrichment activities led by Baltimore City teachers and Young Audiences artists during the five-week program. Students can select the art form they will focus on during enrichment sessions, with choices including dance, photography, illustration and mural painting, theatre, Hip Hop, steel drum, or VEX robotics.
Because this is the first-ever Young Audiences arts-based summer learning site, we thought it deserved an equally spectacular kick-off event. As students arrived, what better way to greet them than with the arts?
On Monday, June 30, as students walked up to the school for the opening day of camp, the first thing that hit their ears was the sound of a steel drum being played by Young Audiences roster artist Kevin Martin of Rockcreek Steel Drums. Kevin has been building and playing steel drums for more than 20 years; this summer, he will show students how the instrument connects to math.
On the way into the building, students passed the dancing Valerie Branch, a new Young Audiences artist whose energetic moves caused many to stop and watch. Valerie will get students moving while studying science this summer. Those walking in also got to witness the Hip Hop talents of musician Jamaal “Mr. Root” Collier, who will use his skills to bring math to life. Bridget Cavaiola of Baltimore Improv Group used improvisational theatre techniques to direct students inside the building. With her help, students will learn how theatre can make abstract science concepts concrete.
The excitement wasn’t just at the front of the school. Once inside, students had the opportunity to take part in photographer Christina Delgado’s photo booth, dressing themselves in hats and glasses before striking poses. Students will have the chance to go behind the lens with Christina to learn the art of photography and its connections to math. Visual artist Danyett Tucker will link illustration to science. As students looked on, she created a colorful mural with images of various art forms incorporated into the design, from music notes to microphones to Polaroid pictures. Students were invited to create murals of their own, as each table was decked with markers and a giant sheet of paper.
All children, regardless of their resources or where they live, lose some math skills during the summer. Studies show that economically-disadvantaged students also lose literacy skills during this “summer learning slide.” Experts believe that the achievement gap between middle- and low-income students not only grows during the summer—it exists largely because of the summer.
Programs like 22nd Century Pioneers provide students with a safe place to go during the day, access to free healthy meals, adequate adult supervision, and positive, educational activities. This summer Young Audiences artists will connect students with new experiences through the arts as they learn about math and science in a new way and build their self-confidence as they gain knowledge and skills.
Check back in with the Young Audiences blog throughout July as we look at how these artist and teacher pairs are using arts integration in their classrooms.
Happy summer and happy learning!
By Danyett Tucker, Young Audiences illustrator and Artist Associate
During my recent mural residency program at Hamilton Elementary/Middle, students celebrated their community by remodeling Main Street and adding their own businesses. Social awareness symbols are sprinkled throughout their fantasy blueprint which now proudly covers their lunchroom wall.
I began by taking photos of well-known businesses in the area so that students could work on designs to upgrade their neighborhood. They decided what businesses they would like to add and represented those with related symbols. In class, we listened to a socially-conscious soundtrack and used some of the lyrics as inspiration to include messages that would uplift the community.
The students created all of the drawings and then I collaged their individual efforts together to create the scene. Together, we painted for days on end! During the course of six more workshops with me, and several additional sessions led by my teacher partner Ms. Friedman, this mural came to life. The sixth, seventh, and eighth grade art classes all contributed to the piece.
Ms. Friedman worked tirelessly on the mural panels outside of our workshops in the classroom. Since Ms. Friedman is retiring at the end of this school year, we included a student drawing of her in the finished mural.
Ms. Freidman shared: “I love, love, love the mural! Everywhere I look, I see something new! Students and parents went down to see the finished piece after a recent school concert and the building’s custodians finally had to chase them out because they were so caught up in it.”
It was an awesome experience!
This residency was made possible through a Maryland State Arts Council Arts in Education Artist-in-Residence Grant. Learn more about how Young Audiences can assist your school or community organization in applying for this and other grant funding opportunities online.
By Danyett Tucker, Young Audiences visual artist and illustrator
Do you think there is a difference between listening and hearing? One of my professors once asked me to illustrate Jimmy Hendrix’s song “Voodoo Child.” The project made me see art in a new light. I don’t think I’ve ever had to listen to lyrics as hard as I did to really hear Jimmy. After hitting repeat over and over again, I finally heard Jimmy and realized the power of his music. I realized that music has the power to unite us by telling stories that we can all identify with and illustrating themes of what it means to be human.
This summer I worked with Baltimore City middle school students at Rognel Heights as a part of Young Audiences’ partnership with Baltimore City Public Schools Summer Academies which brought Young Audiences artists to 10 sites throughout the city. In the mornings I partnered with the
sixth-grade science teacher to incorporate arts integration with the summer science curriculum, and each afternoon my mural painting class was one of the choices offered to students for arts enrichment.
Summer programming is a valuable resource for Baltimore City students. Many Baltimore neighborhoods are deprived and neglected. Many lack basic necessities, such as access to fresh groceries or safe places for children to play and the community to gather, preventing individuals and families from thriving. Challenges related to gun violence, poverty, public health, and family structure are obstacles for students in these communities to remain focused and committed to their education. These challenges can also make summer the scariest time of the year for students in the inner city. Without a regular school schedule, these children lack access to school lunches, a safe place to spend the day, and activities that keep them intellectually engaged.
My goal for the summer learning program was to show my students how music combined with a public work of art can play an important role in restoring a community’s broken spirit. I wanted to encourage them to uplift each other through the powerful lyrics and positive messages that we shared during our mural project.
To guide the project, I selected a series of songs that spoke to community concerns. We started with one of my favorite songs of all time, Lauryn Hill’s “Everything is Everything.” I began by demonstrating how illustrators turn words into pictures. We illustrated the chorus together and then students had the chance to pick a verse of the song that painted the clearest picture in their mind and illustrate it.
Next was Cat Stevens’ “Where Do the Children Play?” which introduced students to creating depth in settings. The environmental references in this song are so profound and led to deep discussions about the physical conditions of our communities. I talked with students about using public spaces to promote a cause or message and how music and art combined can move a community to action.
The next songs on the soundtrack were Bob Marley’s “Get Up Stand Up” and “One Love.” Imagine the vibe in the classroom as we collectively realized that gun violence wasn’t just something in the news–many of us had friends or family who had been affected by gun violence. We listened to Bob’s words of peace, love, and his call for all to move to action and reflected on the social commentary of the times.
As we continued work on our mural, we began focusing on the people depicted and drawing proportions. The students wanted to create a piece with a lasting legacy that would awaken civic responsibility in all viewers of the mural.
The final 12-panel mobile mural portrayed people coming together and holding up signs that displayed community declarations. Places to play, to honor loved ones lost, and to highlight every day community heroes were interwoven throughout our visual testimony.
Click on the images above to see the “A” and “B” sides of the completed mural.
We ended the project on a personal note and illustrated Emily King’s, song “Walk in My Shoes,” because let’s face it, if we could walk in each other’s shoes we would spend less time judging, hating, and bullying others.
The students were inspired by the music and were so expressive in the images they created. They were singing along with the songs by the time we started painting. They couldn’t wait to get to my class every day and they didn’t want to leave. The work we created was magical and the five C’s–culture, comparisons, connections, communication, and community–were covered in this socially conscious endeavor. Every student was carrying their community on their shoulders and felt a civic responsibility to represent the voices of many through their art.
I could not have been happier with the outcome. The confidence of each student soared during the five-week program, and I know they will listen harder to the music they hear from now on and think about the messages that are received and sent. One voice, one love, and one heart! Let’s get together and feel all right!