Monday, November 24, 2014

Social Commentary Graffiti Project

Deborah Ryder at Kennedy High School reflects on a recent project...

I designed my Social Commentary Graffiti Project because I wanted my students to experience the power of public art to raise consciousness, provoke discussion and visually impact their school environment. I guided a discussion and asked them to make lists of issues that were on their minds. They chose working partners and formed small groups of 2 -4 and they decided on the issue they wanted to present. 

Graffiti has broad general appeal and interest with my students. As they were planning their works, I showed them a lot of Banksy. I found some really interesting videos about Banksy on YouTube (including a hilarious bit from Steven Colbert). They created 5' tall graffiti works inspired by Banksy. Like Banksy, I told them they could use appropriated imagery from popular culture and Banksy himself, but they needed to create new juxtapositions to design their images. They also wrote Manifesto statements about their topic that would put up with their graffiti. 

Students traced their designs on clear plastic sheets and projected their graffiti designs onto large pieces of kraft paper. They used black acrylic paint and had the option to add white and one accent color. They cut them out and in one day during their art class period they "stealthily" wheat pasted their graffiti any where in the school they wanted. 

My students were incredulous that they had permission to present works that were personal and sometimes controversial. I told them I didn't ask permission. We were just going to do the project and I would accept the consequences. That earned me a little cred with my students, even though I figured the work would be well received by every one at school, including administration. 

At first my students were skeptical. They thought their work would be destroyed by other students in the school or at the very least the principal would tell me to take them down. Then the talk started. "This is so cool. Who did this, etc, etc" They started seeing their work on Facebook, Instagram and SnapChat. Their teachers were talking about it and creating spontaneous lessons inspired by their graffiti.

The graffiti stayed up for 3 weeks and were on display during report card pick up for parents and visitors to view. Then we took them down. Teachers are sorry to see them gone and have expressed their appreciation for the project and are asking me what we are going to do next.

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