School Name: George Washington High School
Administrator Name: Palmira Perez
Teaching Artists Names: Ellen Tritschler and Jessica Mueller
Big Idea: Community
What and how can our parent/community group collaboratively work to create a projects and/or events, which will help publicize the work being done at GWHS to the larger community (neighborhood/ward)?How can our parent group use its own art work which focuses on their identity and culture in order to promote a dialogue with the neighborhood community?
1. Planning: What interests and curiosities were brought to the planning by each of you?
Administrator response: Palmira: One of the biggest interests is to bring GWHS community together and to increase parent involvement. Some of the my curiosity is helping to create some projects that can connect the community with their culture values
Teaching Artist response: Ellen: When we began planning, I was very interested in continuing to explore the concept of identity and community. In my own work I am exploring concepts of my family’s past and how this translates to me. I wanted parents and community members in this years class to also explore more work that expresses their identity. In addition, I knew that the GWHS administration was working to increase the school’s visibility within the neighborhood community. Our parent/community group has so many ties to the neighborhood and community that I thought we could work on sharing the work that we do at the school with other parents at other neighborhood elementary schools.
2. The Project: Tell the story of your project. What happened in the classroom?
Administrator response: Palmira: One of the projects that we have made are the Sugar Skulls. During this project parent were sharing that is a big part of their values. They use this sugar skulls to build an ofrenda that its a huge part of their culture. Based on that parents built an ofrenda that its honor death people during the 2nd day of November.
Teaching Artist response: Ellen: Beginning in October, the parent group has collectively worked to transform the lunchroom space where its classes are held. Together parents, community members, Palmira, Jessica and myself are striving to change the space to make it more permanent to our needs as a class. We also are showcasing work that represents our community and cultures. Our story really is about the women and men who make up our class and the talents and stories that they share with the group.
During our first week of classes, group members collaborated to create a wall calendar with 2-3 months hung at a time. The calendar provides members with the dates and times of current and future events. Not only do we list our group’s activities, but also we write in general GWHS school events. Above the calendar, we posted the CAPE Parent Programs Facebook page information to encourage our members to sign up for the page. This Facebook page is for parents involved in the CAPE Parent programs at GWHS, Telpochcalli Elementary and Waters Elementary.
Since our sessions started at the beginning of October, Jessica, Palmira and I had the idea for the group to create an ofrenda for Day of Dead- Dia de los Muertos. The ofrenda would be a collaborative work, and we discussed the project and process with the group members. First, we hand-built small skull sculptures using Model Magic clay and then we pressed a mixture of sugar and meringue into skull molds. The sugar skulls are a traditional Mexican art form.
We celebrated Dia de los Muertos on November 2nd by setting up our ofrenda. Besides the skulls, parents decorated the alter with pumpkins, squash, photos of family members, bread, paper flowers, papel picado, votive candles and pottery. We took time to remember our loved ones that had passed, shared our stories and ate bread together.
As we continued into the months of November, and December, the next project was lead by one of our parent members, Roxi. She taught the class how to create pinatas. Roxi has a business of her own in which she creates and sells pinatas. She shared her knowledge and talents about the entire process. Upon completion of the art works, several members decided to hang the pinatas in our classroom and to keep them for display at CAPE’s exhibition in February.
3. How did you check in throughout the project to plan and adjust plans as the project unfolded?
Administrator: Palmira: The way we adjusted was listening to the parents ideas, values and morals.
Teaching Artist: Ellen: We would generally meet as each project was coming to an end so we knew what we need to prepare for the next project. We also asked the group members what they were interested in doing or learning. Most recently we have also made sure to take time each week to announce any upcoming school meetings or issues and to get ideas from the parents. We then add these meetings or events to the calendars. Palmira and I also regularly communicated with the group members through texts. We would send out reminder texts to them.
4. What are the conflicts, contradictions or challenges of your teacher/artist collaboration?
Administrator response: Palmira: Some of the conflicts that we might have are that artist feel sometimes frustrated because I feel that I don’t have the knowledge with some of the projects they do.
Teaching Artist response: Ellen: One of the challenges of our collaboration is that as an administrator, Palmira gets pulled out of our session for various meetings both in-school and for the district. Of course we understand that these meetings are part of her job and she must attend.
5. What are you learning as a result of collaborating with one another in terms of teaching and art making?
Administrator response: Palmira: Openness to new ideas.
Teaching Artist response: Ellen: I think this question is geared towards a teacher and teaching artist collaboration. In parent program since its a administrator and teaching artist collaboration, I have learned more about the school and it’s policies and CPS policies, many things I did not know even as a parent myself of two CPS high school students. I have a better understanding of the GWHS community. Also, Palmira has helped me learn more Spanish so I can communicate more with some of our members who do not speak English.
6. How has the community-focused component of the project contributed to or challenged your teacher/artist collaboration?
Administration response: Palmira:
Seeking to achieve real objectives for the community and deeper understanding of their culture. In the process, the community links personal experiences. Those enhances understanding for my collaboration and more effective action.
Teaching Artist response: Ellen: I think there are two community-focused components to our work this year. The first is the GWHS community itself. We have been reaching out to new parents to join us and so far this year we have had six new parents come to our class on a regular basis in the autumn. Of our new members, there is a married couple, David and Hilda, who have a son at the school who also is involved in the CAPE SCALE after-school art program. Also, David is a GWHS alum. In a conversation I had earlier this year with David and Hilda about reaching out to the neighborhood parents, David told us that his younger children attend local public schools in the neighborhood. We discussed having an art workshop at one of these local schools as a way of letting parents know more about the GWHS community and CAPE SCALE all while creating art together. An art workshop is something we can start discussing this February with the help of Hilda and David.
I think the community focus has helped strengthen our collaboration by really allowing us to get to know our members better and to understand what they want and can share with their community. We can all help each other better understand both the school community and neighborhood community so that we bring positive and mindful actions to our work.
Ellen: Spring 2018: With Hilda’s help, Jessica and I were able to present an art-making workshop at Gallistel Language Academy. Hilda and her husband, David, are parents of students at both Gallistel and George Washington High School. Hilda worked with the Gallistel administration to find a day and time in mid-April for Jessica and I to present to the parents who are part of the school’s Bilingual Advisory Committee. Our presentation focused on the GWHS CAPE Parent Program and was followed by participants making a recycled art work. We began our presentation with a slideshow of our program and of past and current projects. We explained how we had just finished individual painting projects centered around places in our community that have special memories for us or significance to us. We also shared our group’s recent participation in CAPE’s SCALE exhibit Shifting Boundaries: Community Arts Practice in Public Schools. We shared an image of our group at the Family Night opening in March.
Following our presentation, we passed out art supplies and invited the parents to partake in making recycled art works with used water bottles. Jessica, Hilda and I showed off some samples of the works members of our group had just created over the past two weeks. Creating the sculptures involved using Sharpie markers to color the transparent plastic bottles and then cutting the plastic in different ways.
Besides Hilda, Jessica and myself, six other CAPE GWHS parents joined us at this event. As they created the recycled bottle art work with the Gallistel parents, our members engaged in conversation with the Gallistel parents about their experiences with the CAPE program. This is our first step in bringing the work and information about our program to the larger community. Our hope is to do this type of workshop again at Gallistel and other neighboring elementary schools.