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Ford Foundation Sponsors Arts Collaboration at Landmark High School

Written by Kevin Dotson on 12-01-2003

Arts-Technology Project Description

In 2001, a New York City college professor and a mural painter developed an idea to connect high school students from vastly different environments and help them collaborate on the creation of a piece of art. Even though the students were separated by thousands of miles and lots of preconceived notions about each other, they would come together using the Internet to design and create a mural.

That year, a documentary called Creating Counterparts that captured an exciting exploration of communities and culture by high school students in New York City and Holcomb, Missouri. The documentary tells the story of how students overcame distance and embraced differences using art and technology to develop, design and paint a collaborative mural. The project, curriculum, and documentary were co-produced and co-directed by Baruch College Professor Sandra Stein and muralist David Lowenstein.

Following the success of that New York City-Holcomb arts-technology project, the Ford Foundation has provided funding to replicate the process and project through the NYC Leadership Academy�s Aspiring Principals Program. This project has the potential to maximize the Ford Foundation�s investment by supporting five similar projects involving five pairs of New York City public schools, supervised by the aspiring principals in residence in those schools, directed by two teachers in each school, and with participation from up to twenty students per school.

The aim of this project, like the original, is for students in two different NYC schools to collaborate to produce an arts-based product � a play, puppet show, festival, photo exhibition, mural, video, etc. The overarching goal is to create communication among students in two schools using Internet technology as a medium through which students will dialogue around difference, while engaging in the collaborative process of creating a shared piece of art. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the project, students who participate will enhance their literacy, math, technology and social sciences abilities.

Using the arts and technology, the students will expose biases, educate each other, and develop an appreciation for our diverse city and society. The aspiring principals who guide this project will lead an arts-integrated curriculum that engages students and teachers in dialogues about how we form stereotypes about people we do not know, and how to overcome those stereotypes through learning about our respective geography, economy, history, cultures and individual dispositions. The final product will be an outcome and reflection of these on-line and in-class discussions.

The project holds particular opportunities for Landmark High School students who have yet to complete their Arts and Media portfolios. Through participation in the project, students who have been having difficulty completing their Arts and Media portfolios may find new focus, and their work on the project will qualify towards completion of this portfolio. Further, after school time spent working on the project can be applied toward a one-credit art credit that will count toward their overall grade and for graduation credit. Landmark students will collaborate with peers from Bronx International School to create a multi-media production (video, song/rap-writing, performance piece) that is grounded in three essential questions:

What is it like to be a teenager in America?
Who are we and who defines our identity?
How do we challenge myths in popular culture/the media about teenagers in America, and create our own narrative of who we are?

Successful implementation of this project at Landmark will require the consistency of meeting enjoyed by an elective course. For this reason, students who sign on to the course must attend each weekly after school meeting. In addition, students will chose to participate will be enrolled in an in-school Arts and Media Portfolio elective that will support their portfolio completion process while engaging students in rigorous analysis of the media and its affect upon teens and society at large. Since the timeline of this project is from November through the end of the school year, students who select to participate will be enrolled in the elective until June 2004, when the product will be presented and when each student prepares to present their Arts and Media portfolio.

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