Monticello Road is a community arts project in Charlottesville, Virginia. Through photography and a series of public events and conversations, we explore how an art can be an essential, integral and everyday part of a healthy community.
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Wednesday, July 17, 2013
This is the fourth year I’ve worked on StoryLine, the fifth year of its existence. It’s never the same and it’s always good.
This year’s theme was transit: how people and things get around. We spent three days in July with 30 Charlottesville Parks and Rec summer campers (ages 10-14) and a phenomenal team of volunteers exploring three distinct modes of transit: water, bikes and busses and on the fourth day, the kids made a huge chalk mural about it on the Free Expression Wall.
StoryLine invites the youngsters to explore and discover their worlds and use that as fuel for art-making. The Constitution guarantees the right to express oneself, but whence the willingness to do so? What should they say and why?
We’re teaching kids to make connections between their own experiences and the wider world and encouraging them to speak their perspectives. It’s not only a visual expression, although the Free Expression mural is a very visible testament. This year, we included a group of poets and rappers and they really invigorated the experience.
The kids instantly responded to the spoken verse for a variety of reasons. The language and rhythm of Hip Hop feels familiar but they also come from a deeply verbal culture, much more so than visual. So when we asked kids to draw about their observations, they were hesitant—and that’s ok; it’s why we have artist mentors. But when we asked them to rhyme their observations, our jaws all dropped at the adolescents’ fluency. It was amazing.
Words disappear into the air and sky and the drawing did not last the day, as afternoon showers washed the chalkboard clean. Although nothing endures forever, some things have a lasting impact. I hope StoryLine triggers something in the kids. It has certainly changed my life.
Story|line is a collaboration between the Piedmont Council of the Arts, the Bridge, Charlottesville Parks and Recreation, the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, Siteworks Studio and many, many volunteers.
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