Explore London's street art, contemporary art, and theatre communities to develop in-depth units about playwrights and artists that prepare students to create four large, school murals in collaboration with Boston Public School’s pilot Fab Lab.
My appreciation for street art has grown exponentially on this trip. I have a much better understanding of how street art both reflects and speaks to the concerns and hopes of the youth and the underprivileged. Street art, at its best, reflects real political and social anxiety. We hope to use this knowledge as a means by which we can give our students a vehicle to express their own thoughts and opinions.
Our trip to London and Paris will have a direct and immediate impact on our curriculum this year. One prominent example: We will be attending Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet at the Huntington Theater in Boston. Our preparation for this event (our reading of the play) will address interesting issues of gender and class--two topics which were on display in The Royal Shakespeare Company's amazing performance of the play this in Stratford-Upon-Avon.
Of all the plays we planned to see in London during our trip, we were perhaps most interested in seeing An Octoroon, a play by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. It was concluding a long and successful (and sold out!) run at The National Theater. Before the final performance of the play, we spent hours harassing the box office and theatergoers in hopes of finding extra tickets. We finally found two extra tickets right as the play was starting. And it was worth the effort!
Our students will hopefully be able to see the timelessness of Shakespeare's great tragedies. The versions of Hamlet and Romeo & Juliet we witnessed on our trip to London demonstrated how relevant and important these 400+ year old plays still are today. Our readings of these plays will reflect these performances, particularly the empowering idea of gender neutrality and equity within Shakespeare's original words.
Our trip enabled us to strengthen the bond between the English/Language Arts and Visual Arts Department of our school. We have gathered enough expertise in mural painting to produce giant "Street Art" murals on open spaces of our school building. The inspiration for many of these murals will be the playwrights and artists we were able to study on our trip. The murals will be a cross-curricular expression of the importance of art in our lives and our curriculum.
Our quarterly mural productions will be the perfect way to celebrate not only our students' understanding of playwrights such as William Shakespeare and August Wilson, but also their ability to artistically express their interpretations of our English curriculum.
There can be a critical lack of cultural capital within our students' lives. We hope that thorough exploration of the artists and playwrights we have studied in London will increase our students' appreciation of their work, and also whet their appetites to continue their own pursuits of various artistic expression.
An FFT Fellowship is like clicking "refresh" on your screen, or "rebooting" your computer, only instead of a website, what gets refreshed and rebooted is the passion for teaching and a passion for WHAT you are teaching. We were always aware of the importance of what we were teaching in English Language Arts and Visual Arts, and we were confident in the positive impact our curriculum could have on our students' lives. But an FFT trip reminds you of why you love what you teach!