Connecting cultures through art

El class plans to create murals that show diversity at SHS

Returning chunky books, penning final exams and submitting semester-long projects preoccupy the minds of most students at SHS as they prepare for a long-awaited winter break.  

However, students in EL classes taught by teachers Amy Peddie and Brianna Kompara are closing first semester with murals that encompass themes of cultural connections and tie projects back into SHS.

In addition to being a classroom project, these murals are also part of a competition. There will be two winners that earn a “before prize,”  which is getting to paint the students’ murals in the EL hallway. Peddie mentions that about 150 students are participating (in groups) across seven different combined classes of hers and Kompara’s.

“(I was inspired) to recreate the ‘Fly as One’ (theme) and to represent what that means to me: we all have a common purpose, (which) is to work together,” senior Yahaira Venesa Aceves said.

Having started in early November, students from both Peddie’s and Kompara’s classes were tasked with creating murals with their focus on the variety of cultures found in SHS. The project is intended to help students notice the multiplicity of ethnicities, cultures and languages located at SHS and the connections that can be formed among them all, according to Peddie.

“For me, at Southport we are so diverse and even though we are from different cultures and countries,” Aceves said.  “We are together. We are united.”

Before starting, students were placed in small groups with a blend from both Peddie’s and Kompara’s classes. Combining classes is not what they normally do.

“We decided to join our level two and level three classes together and mix the groups (to have) a combination of different English proficiencies (and) cultures,” Kompara said. “They came together to work on the projects.”

After having been placed into their groups, students were able to start forming ideas on what direction to take this project and determine some roles for each group member to undertake. Peddie mentions that some of the different roles included the artist, the writer and the presenter.

“(In the) project everyone has his role,” junior Aron Olomwene said. “I was drawing. The other one was coloring. The other one was writing.”

According to Kompara, the first step in the process was to interview a student who didn’t speak the same language or come from the same country as the person conducting the interview.

“We made emphasis that we want to make sure that all cultures, including students born in America were represented as well, so they interviewed all cultures,” Kompara said.

Based on the interview, students could begin doing research on the web or by asking friends of whom belong to the same ethnicity, culture or language as the interviewed student, for more insight on the latter traits.

From there, students took their collected information to make their murals. Students also generated a symbol that would accurately represent their culture or country.

However, both Peddie and Kompara prohibited the use of flags as symbols, as not all groups recognize the flag of other groups. Also, not all countries and cultures are represented well by their flags.

The last step for students was putting together the project itself. That is, students designed images in color and wrote words on a poster to present their findings. The murals had to demonstrate connectivity, unison, and community by including all cultures and languages of focus.

“On my mind, I wanted to make a project and I wanted to make pictures with the people and the counselors so they get consultation,” Olomwene said. “The purpose was how people gathered and share their ideas.

Kompara mentions that she split her groups away from Peddie a little bit as she required students to not only to show connectivity, unison and community, but tie these cultural themes back into SHS, how SHS plays a role in the different languages and cultures.

She wanted students to show how the multitude of cultures and languages relating to SHS, whether it’d be adding the Cardinal, the theme “Fly As One” or listing the various activities where kids are seen coming together around school.

“One of (my partners) was doing research. The other one was helping to translate ‘Fly as One’ in many different languages,” Aceves said.

Olomwene mentions that his partners included images of soccer fields and other activities performed at SHS to show togetherness and connectivity.

According to Peddie, the winners will be chosen in a filtering down process.

On Monday, Dec. 17, 2018, students turned in projects to Peddie and Kompara to be evaluated, which a handful of those will be presented to principal Brian Knight, assistant principal Andrew Ashcraft and assistant principal Amy Boone on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. They will then choose two murals to be painted outside of Peddie’s and Kompara’s classrooms.

“(The plan is to have murals selected this semester) and painted next semester,” Peddie said.

According to Peddie, she will be reaching out to art teacher Breanna Bierod and work with the art club to get the murals painted next semester. She hasn’t worked with the art club before, but hopes that the collaboration will be successful.