It was time to build the kites. Today, students participating in the My Street, My Voice, Our Story art project were getting together to assemble the kites that would represent their own personal story.
Students from Catherine Cook and Manierre were meeting up at Art on Sedgwick to build the kites, while the Franklin Fine Arts Students and the adult community members participating in the project assembled theirs inside Franklin’s gymnasium.
All the materials were laid out on the tables. Tape, wooden rods, and a large canvass with each student’s photograph printed on it. Specific quotes from the interviews held earlier in the month were printed below the photographs, giving insight into the story behind each face. What was really interesting, though, was that none of the photos or quotes had names on them. It made each quote, although very personal and specific, potentially applicable to anyone in the room. The namelessness made these open, personal statements applicable to any and all of us.
“I have one best friend, he is always there for me”
“Different in a good way, science will lead me”
“Take risks, do the unexpected, make a positive impact”
I walked around the room familiarizing myself with the different faces and reading quotes I couldn’t help but relate with.
Initially, the kite building session was quiet and somewhat independent. Catherine Cook students arrived at the Art on Sedgwick space first and began building their kites. Each student found their face spread across the table, started reading instructions, and got to building.
Then came the Manierre students. As they began building, many of the Catherine Cook students were wrapping up theirs. Most partners from opposite schools that had interviewed each other sat together, but there wasn’t too much interacting. A bit of talk about the best way to go about assembling the materials, but most students were head down accomplishing the task at hand.
Twenty minutes or so in, the kites were getting finished. Each student would take their own kite, their own personal story, and put it into the pile of finished kites. One by one they’d finish their kites and head back to the tables. This is when the energy in the room began to completely change.
Groups of socializing students started to form. Initially, the groups were between ‘old’ friends. Between ‘best’ friends. A group of three Catherine Cook students sat down on the ground. Two students from Manierre grabbed a corner and started talking intimately. But after just a couple minutes, as more students finished their kites, the groups started to change.
One big group of mostly boys started to hang out right in the middle of the room. It was made up of half Manierre and half Catherine Cook 6th grade students. Another group of mostly girls, from both schools, gathered in the front of the room and started to write on the “I remember…I wonder…” wall.
As students piled their finished kite on the table, they’d look around the room and move towards a specific group.
It was as if there was a gravitational force that was bringing students together and encouraging conversation.
The space was very loud at this point, full of conversation, movement, and energy.
In this group of about 60 people, each person naturally gravitated to where they felt more comfortable.
A group of boys and girls from both schools was hanging out near the front playing paddy cake. They were chanting lyrics, laughing loudly, and trying to outpace each other with every turn. Some students quickly ran towards this group when they laid their finished kite down. Other students instead chose to sit next to their partner from the other school and chatted more quietly. It seemed energy and the specific activity led each student’s decision of what group to join. It didn’t matter what school each student was from.
Within five minutes the groups were basically independent of schools. Students from both Manierre and Catherine Cook were hanging out with each other, talking, playing, or writing. There was a calm, comfortable energy throughout the room. And it seems that’s precisely what this month-long project had achieved.
The students and adults were completely comfortable with each other by this fourth session. This was now a room full of familiar faces. Sure, it’s easier to hang out with ‘old’ friends but students from both schools hung out for the rest of the session in an overwhelming calmness and comfort. There were smiles, laughter, and fun radiating throughout the room.
The difference between the first moment these two groups got together a month earlier to interview each other and the last fifteen minutes of this session was dramatically noticeable. I felt surrounded by one big classroom of 6th-grade students that had been together since the beginning of the year. It was fun and got me even more excited for the big day when everyone gathers to fly the kites together.
As time ran out teachers and organizers helped gather students to head back to their own schools. It took a bit of effort, as the socializing wasn’t easy to interrupt. While the students walked out, voices continually wrung out, “So when do we get to fly these kites!!”
Students said their goodbyes and head out. The energy of the room completely dissipated, from 100 to 0. What a difference social interaction, conversation, and fun can make.
The students will soon get together at Franklin Fine Arts to fly all their kites together, and tell the story of Old Town. Cecil McDonald Jr will be taking a photograph as the final work of art. All of the kites, the interviews, the sound snippets, and the final photograph will be displayed in an art exhibit at Art on Sedgwick from June 4th. Make sure to stop by!