Phase One: From Sculpture to Pathway
Art teacher Danielle Ferrin helped students imagine ways to visualize what they had learned about how social movements begin and grow. Ms. Ferrin shared her experience producing public art, and she passed around examples of what could be done with different media.
Students worked together for weeks to draft their vision. They decided early on that they wanted a more interactive experience for the viewer than a sculpture could provide. The exhibit should give viewers an opportunity to reflect on their place in history.
On the whiteboard, they sketched a “choose your own adventure” pathway. They would paint the symbolic pathway at the site of the historic Ashburn Colored School, featuring primary source documents from their individual projects to ground their artistic representation in history.
As viewers walk on the painted pathways, they move through: a catalyzing event drawing attention to an issue of injustice; increased public awareness; an ideological split between radicals and moderates, where the key decision about the necessary path is made; a broadly-supported victory followed by violent backlash; and an unrealized but possible "justice” at the exhibit’s conclusion.
The project required a diverse set of skills, and students chose the work that best matched their passions and interests: cleaning and preparing the site, painting, mixing concrete, sawing and drilling PVC poles, selecting and arranging primary documents, choosing the music, making historically-accurate protest signs, and flying the camera drone to record the unveiling.
Just after the panel discussion, the whole school boarded buses and headed to the exhibit’s unveiling. Community members of all ages moved through the pathway, reading the poems and examining the photographs and quotations the students had selected. Visitors were invited to record their thoughts or a favorite quote on the justice sculpture at the end of the pathway.