SchoolArts Magazine

September 2017

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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traditions as a tool of communica- tion and documentation. Children Tell Their Stories Children also visibly hold their sto- ries and cultures through their art. My first experience teaching art was in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, in the part of the city that was hit hardest by the storm. For my senior honor's thesis, I studied stu- dent artwork in their responses to the flood. I was fascinated by the unique glimpse their artwork gave into the lasting effects of the disaster, and how art was used to mitigate the severe trauma students endured. This powerful experience made me realize that I wanted to become an art teacher, not only to advocate for the voices of young people, but also to give them a platform to become articulate actors in producing the social realities of their world. A few years later, as a Montessori art teacher, I have a firm belief that young students can communicate about their own world through the artwork they create and say what cannot be said. With opportunity, children can give culturally signifi- cant information about themselves and the societies in which they live. My Milwaukee In Milwaukee, art teachers were recently invited to participate in an exhibition with the Milwau- kee County Historical Society and A rtsEco, a program through the University of Milwaukee's Peck School of the Arts whose mission is to develop teachers as change- makers. The exhibition was titled My Milwaukee and explored the experiences of young people grow - ing up in Milwaukee from their own pe rspectives. My lower-elementary students created collaborative story quilts interpreting their distinct experiences living in Milwaukee. Students were inspired by the story quilts of artist Faith Ringgold, cultural Hmong story quilts, and South American arpilleras. The story presented in each square provides insight into each child's unique vision of home and includes iconic elements such as Lake Michi - gan, the U.S. Bank building, parks, n eighborhoods, and our school. Community Exhibition The exhibition at the Milwaukee County Historical Society was a citywide community event attended by more than 300 people. And, the Historical Society asked to keep our story quilts as part of their permanent collection! The power of exhibiting student artwork to a wide public audi- ence and having it valued advocates for the importance of art education while also profoundly impacting stu- dents, schools, and our wider commu- nity. For students, seeing their own artwork in a historical museum sends the message that what they do mat- ters. It makes their presence visible and their voices heard. For students, seeing their own artwork in a historical museum sends the message that what the do matters. Reflections Many family members worked together with students to create the final quilts, fostering a deeper sense of community and solidarity. Additionally, families were proud to see the quilts hung in such a prestigious venue and honored to know they are now part of the His - torical Society's collection. By using our networks to make the voices of our children heard through their artwork, we can advocate for our students not only as artists, but also as important anthropological, sociological, and historical contribu - tors to society. Jenny Urbanek is a teacher at Downtown Montessori Academy in Milwaukee, Wis- consin. Jenny.urbanek@ N A T I O N A L S T A N D A R D Connecting: Relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and external context. W E B L I N K articles/my-milwaukee-exhibit-show- cases-student-art-at-historical-society/ Students and their families attend the M Milwaukee art exhibit at the Milwaukee County Historical Society. SCHOOLAR TSMAGAZINE.COM 37

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