516 ARTS and Albuquerque High School (AHS) are teaming up to provide art-making materials in the form of “art kits” to students during the pandemic. We see this as a pilot program that could be reproduced with other schools and museums. Albuquerque Public Schools has stated that all schools will go online when it resumes in August, 2020, further widening the distance between the art studio and the students. This program provides 600 art kits for students to lessen that gap. The kits will contain as much as will fit into them to ensure that students stay creatively engaged while also staying healthy and safe. In this round of kits, the art materials we provide students and the corresponding curriculum will connect to the following two exhibitions at 516 ARTS:
• Radical Reimaginings reflects on our shifting world using collage, a medium that has been historically used by artists to directly engage with the visual narratives of their time and to re-imagine the stories that have been told. As consciousness is rapidly changing on both a personal and collective level, the exhibition offers a space for reflection through acts of examining, re-organizing, and manipulating imagery.
• Feminisms highlights Indigenous women artists, among artists of various cultures, whose creative possibilities use the theme of feminism in its most expansive meaning. It is curated by Andrea R. Hanley (Navajo) who has assembled works that are far reaching, addressing subjects including the diasporic experience, resilience, self-determination, the body, and land.
There are 1,900 students at Albuquerque High School. Each year, about 600 of those students enroll in art classes. AHS is a Title 1 school, which means it has a large concentration of low-income students, most of whom receive some form of supplemental funding to help them meet their educational goals. These supplements are a reflection of the inequities that exist in public education. There aren’t enough books for the students. The classes are too big. The school buildings are old. Why can’t schools be safer and better funded and feel more relevant? It is these inequities that are highlighted more than ever by the pandemic. In light of our new Covid-19 reality, it will be impossible for art students to share materials and tools, whether teachers see them in person or remotely. The risks are too high.
The Art Kits program is beginning now, Fall semester, 2020. Now is the time to get art materials into the hands of students as quickly as possible. The program is proposed to continue through the pandemic, but has the potential to provide longer term support for students to help bridge inequities into the future.
Through art, students they see themselves and their communities reflected, which helps them understand the world. They see the culture that has comforted and guided them, but also the culture that has oppressed them, and they use art to explore the intersections of the two. More than that, students use art to show us how to be better, advocating for a better, more beautiful future.
We are seeking $15,000 to help us give these students their own art supplies. Help us get ahead of this pandemic. While the kits won’t make up for all of the inequities in our public education system, this gesture has real power. It is an investment in our community’s artists of tomorrow.