Monday, March 21, 2011

Creativity, Expression and Trust

Last week was full of great surprises. In our newly formed Art Group the students worked on a project in which they created visual representations of islands. The challenge given to the students was to draw and collage images of islands. Working in groups of three they had to determine what items were necessary to survive on their islands, what items they would want to leave behind on the islands, and then draw or collage images of those items. In some ways their work was very literal. For example they included images of money and explained that they’ll need money to buy food and pay rent. On the other hand they also thought of the islands as surreal utopias where no one would ever grow old.

As an experiment we played mellow R&B music during part of the session to discover what impact it would have on the students’ creativity. Rather than distracting them the music had a calming effect. The students seemed to go into their own internal, creative worlds and focused on creating their islands rather than conversing with each other about off-topic subjects like school gossip. The use of music actually leads into our next session which will be focused on the impact of music on ones emotions and how it can subsequently shape the type of art work one creates.

I also sat in on the Young Men’s Group and came away inspired by the sense of respect the students have for one another and how they let their guards down and shared their emotions during the session. I saw a dramatic change from the students' behavior in school, where they are very concerned about being perceived as weak and put on a tough persona with their peers. The topic the students were discussing which was put forward by the social worker who leads the group, was healthy relationships.

Many of the students have single mothers and spoke about the abusive relationships their mothers had with their fathers and how this impacted them as children witnessing domestic violence. A couple of the older students are fathers themselves, and spoke about their struggle to manage the responsibilities of school, part-time jobs, and fatherhood. I was so impressed with the students openness and truly happy to see that they’ve created a safe space to talk with each other and share about their personal struggles in and outside of school.

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