The inspiration for my art project that I did with the 7th/8th graders at LJA came from my initial two visits to the class. The students were so receptive to and engaged in talking about sexuality and gender and how it all comes back to how you feel inside--you as an individual were born a certain way and should not be ashamed to be honest about and true to who you are. Concurrently, I had been thinking often about how my involvement at the school fit into the goals of our class and within the contexts of the books we were reading. Terry Kapsalis’ theme of redefining "healthy and normal" as a spectrum has stuck with me and is something I think middle school girls should be taught. The Baumgartener and Richards book and its practical message of how to get involved at any age or commitment level also fit in well with my work at the school. This book redefines feminism really nicely, I think, saying that "feminism is acknowledging individual's gifts and talents regardless of gender." The book also devotes quite a bit of time to discussing how overlooked the opinions and potential of young people (middle and high school) have been and continue to be. I decided that the two things that resonated the best both with me and with what I had observed in the LJA class were redefining feminism and activism as more inclusive and assessable (a spectrum!); I also wanted to convey a feeling of empowerment and self-worth. I think that both terms “feminism” and “activism” have an isolating connotation. There is a good deal of hesitation along the lines of “am I ________ enough to be considered a feminist or an activist”? I have also really benefited from our discussions in class that address the question of what is activism and how you can be an activist on a very large or very small scale in many different arenas. In this vein, I’ve connected with the concept of guerilla art as one very assessable form of activism. I don’t know if guerilla art is necessarily how I do and will best express myself but I wanted to present it as a potential expression outlet for the 7th and 8th graders. My vision for the posters that the LJA students and I created is graffiti or collage-like. It would be a space where the girls could express themselves and what they want to say to the community/their peers/the world. I was impressed with their comments and contributions to the sexuality conversation--I think that they do have a lot to share. I think we could frame the project as "You are important and what you think matters--what would you like to tell others about gender and sexuality or, even broader, about growing up as a girl in today's world."
From my perspective, the project went well. I hope to debrief a little bit with the LJA girls when I go for the last time next week. They were pretty excited to do the project and while there was a little bit of silliness, which stemmed likely from being uncomfortable to be vulnerable, I think that the students did enjoy having the “expression space.” When we talked for a few minutes about where the posters should be hung, one girl wanted them in her room. There was a pretty lively debate about where they should be hung in the school. I was heartened to see the girls wanting to share their work and ideas.