Students at four Austin schools had their artwork displayed at the Austin Town Hall Park for the third annual “Found in Austin” art exhibit June 8.
The Found in Austin program connected students with artists during the school year at Milton R. Brunson Math and Science Specialty School, Oscar DePriest Elementary, Edward “Duke” Ellington Elementary and Ella Flagg Young Elementary.
Teaching artists introduced students to the work of popular artists such as Rashid Johnson and Bernard Williams, among others, and asked them to use the artists’ work as an inspiration for their own creations with a specific focus on the Austin community.
Students took pictures, produced stop motion animation, created plaques and used tracing techniques to make original work, which was on display from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the town hall.
Clara Williams, a teacher of a variety of subjects at DePriest, visited the exhibit with some of her students.
All the children at DePriest participated in the Found in Austin art gallery. The students tackled the theme of stereotypes in the community.
Williams said the students’ work turned out “awesome” because they were able to express themselves.
“To see the word and actually be able to respond to it through art was very empowering for the children,” Williams said.
Williams said one piece of artwork in particular stood out to her. One student challenged the stereotype that all African-Americans like fried chicken.
“The little girl said, ‘I don’t even like chicken,’” Williams said. “Many times it’s associated that all black people like friend chicken; I do, but this particular child does not.”
Diego Gutierrez, an artist assistant at DePriest, said the students used well-known artist Mark Bradford as an inspiration for their work.
“The students were very, very honest,” Gutierrez said.
He said it was an opportunity for the students to raise questions about why people have stereotypes about Austin residents.
Students at Young worked on a collaborative piece called “symbols of success.” The students made individual plaques, inspired by artist Rashid Johnson, with designs and reflective surfaces to convey success in Austin. The students identified personal, school or community success they wanted to highlight.
Matt Woods, one of the teaching artists at Brunson, worked with students and the theme of community and identity. Students took more than 2,000 photos to make a stop motion animation film of each student dancing or doing other movements. The students colored each frame by hand and created large-scale portrait photos of themselves.
When asked how it was working with the students, Woods said, “there’s no need for energy drinks.”
He said throughout the creation process they were always pumped to make the art, and when it finally came together, they had a “wow moment,” Woods said.
“When that moment happens, I’m all in,” Woods said.
William Estrada, an artist and manager of the Found in Austin program, said teachers have high expectations of the students, and “they always surpass them.”
Estrada said the themes they worked with were more complex and deeper than the past two years.
The students were able to transform preconceived notions of themselves and the community, he said.
“The work is really, really interesting,” he said.
The Found in Austin program is looking for students to participate in its summer class where students from the four schools will build off what they did during the school year. Art projects include screen-printing T-shirts, making advertisements and cataloging this year’s work. The program is still accepting students to fill the 22 slots. Four spots from each school are reserved, but there are about six spots open for other youth in the community.
For more information, call Found in Austin at 312-788-3373.