On the second visit of the residency, Augusto asked the students to brainstorm about the events of 9/11 and come up with ideas for the design. The students suggested several symbols, such as a helmet to represent fire fighters or a red bandanna to represent heroism and bravery (a red bandanna was worn by well-known 9/11 hero Wells Crowther who gave his own life to save those of many other people). The students then broke into groups to sketch images that would help tell the story.
A particular group of sixth grade boys worked on sketches together. They decided they wanted the American flag in the mural to represent patriotism, and they also chose to depict it with flames all around it, thinking that the flames would make it a glorious, “cool” image – similar to flames on a car or motorcycle. Their vision was of an American flag flying high, surrounded by flames.
The groups presented their sketches to each other and had to try to persuade their peers to include them in the mural. There were interesting debates about what different symbols represented. When the boys presented their flag surrounded by flames, their peers immediately pointed out the flag didn’t look “glorious,” but rather on fire and in the process of being burned. Their interpretation was completely different than what the boys intended.
Through this exercise, the students got one of the main points of the residency – that artists have to be careful and think critically about what they include in their imagery because art can be interpreted in different ways. Augusto helped underscore the idea by pointing out that the students need to think of how people 30-40 years from now will perceive the design. He challenged the students to question whether the images will make sense and be understood by future generations.
Thanks to the Lake Geauga Fund of The Cleveland Foundation for making this great residency possible. We can’t wait to see the finished product.