From: Diane Wilkin
Communication in 2016 happens in Very Public Spaces. Even the text messaging that you might believe is private can be recorded and shared with others in ‘screen-shots’. In this year of political posturing with the presidential election and heightened campaign messages about to be released, (I write as the Republican National Convention is taking place in Cleveland, OH) it’s important that we learn and teach how to safely maneuver in this very public space, participate ethically in the discussion and be aware of the impact that this space has upon us.
Summer Feliciano is passionate about the prejudice shown towards bulldogs. She created this large public piece in the school cafeteria to illustrate that perceptions are different in other places. The breeds pictured are all banned in various parts of the world. She posted a variety of statistical information next to the piece. Students, teachers, and a regional community group joined the conversation.
Students want to take part in the discussion and often expand my own knowledge because of their passion about an issue. Kara Walker’s black cut out silhouettes are powerful images exploring issues of race, violence, sexuality - tough subjects for any classroom. Her work proved inspirational to Summer, whose work is pictured above. Kara Walker Art 21 Episode
Learning to communicate Big Messages of personal importance, Truman HS students researched facts, and then provided information and large format visuals to inform, educate, and impact the perception and possibly the activity of the viewer.
Using Digital media, Brett Sommerer designed a large poster to inform others about the problems being faced by the bee populations and the impact that these problems are anticipated to have on the human population.
Check out the drawings in the February 2015 SchoolArts article by Carol Horst “One Wish” describing student responses to “Can Art Change the World?” We also look at "Running the Numbers" by Chris Jordan. I saw this show in NYC a while back and I STILL remember being drawn in to a powerful moment – a realization of the impact of huge statistical numbers representing injustice, violence, consumption and trash. Jeanne Leffingwell’s A Million Bead Project brings huge numbers into an elementary perspective. These are powerful examples of communicating BIG NUMBER Messages.
Recognizing that what we communicate has an IMPACT and that there are ETHICAL considerations to be made, our photography class discusses ethics when comparing the Newsweek and Time Magazine cover photos of the McCaughey parents, using the guidelines for photojournalism as a reference. AP Code of Journalism
Comparison of Newsweek and Time Magazine covers – Mc Caughey Septuplets
Always looking to enhance lessons, this week I found additional resources to use when discussing BIG SOCIAL MESSAGES – the following story directly relates to the magazine comparison above.
In Rich Smith’s book, the Leap *How 3 Simple Changes Can Propel Your Career from Good to Great, he tells the story of Sylvia Lagnado in 2002 working at Unilever on an advertising campaign for the Dove brand. Looking at the statistics surrounding women and poor self-images, she and her team wanted to make changes. The team was motivated but management was not convinced about transforming the brand. The team had trouble gaining momentum until they were able to “film young daughters of C-level executives. We asked them what they didn’t like about their bodies. We told them they could name one thing only. I don’t like my freckles, my hair, my butt, I’m too heavy, I’m too short.” I’m ugly.
“Then we added music and played it back to the people whose daughters we had filmed. Here were grown men sitting in a wood-paneled executive conference room watching their own preteen daughters, cute young girls, saying that they didn’t feel pretty – slender ten-year-olds saying that they were fat. It was as emotional and powerful as you could get…. It was uncomfortable, but they got it.”
Sometimes we’re not aware of the BIG MESSAGE, sometimes we are. Most likely, whether aware or not, we’re affected by it. Let’s educate ourselves and our students to take an active, ethical role in communicating big (and small) messages in the very public spaces of our lives. Let us also teach and learn to critically analyze the messages we receive and then create quality content to contribute to the conversation.