Dalewood students showcase social justice art, celebrate program

Dalewood students showcase social justice art, celebrate program

February 29th, 2012 Rachel Sauls in Local Regional News

Gangs. Drugs. Love. Money. Violence.

When tasked with creating art to showcase social issues in their community, these were some of the recurring themes among Dalewood middle schoolers.

Eighth-grade students Eddie Pitmon, left, and Jelin Madden work on a painting together during art class at Dalewood Middle School. Students studied the work of artist Keith Haring, who created social issue art like the "Crack is Whack" mural in New York City, before beginning their own social issue paintings.

Photo by Rachel Sauls

"A lot of my students are caught in the crossfire," said art teacher Michel Belknap. "They are up to great things but live in an area where some people aren't."

Paintings like "Above the Influence," "Waste of Time" and "Weed is not What I Need" will be on display during an art exhibition, celebration and auction at Dalewood Middle School Saturday, March 3 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.

"Gangs, violence and drugs mean a lot for our generation, but it's important not to be influenced by those things," said eighth-grade student Jerriann Roberson of one of her paintings.

Other eighth-grade students like Frank Beavers and Coryn Atkinson said their art expresses the need for more love in the world instead of gangs and violence.

"This class in particular has an amazing amount of passion and spirit," said Belknap. "I want this event to be a day of supporting the creative voice of our kids."

According to Belknap, so far this year her students have participated in four exhibits and won in each of the five contests they've competed in.

"It took them a while to buy into art and start believing in themselves," she said. "But once there's that belief and ownership of their art, there's no stopping them. They have the power to do anything with it."

Belknap said she'd like to see the upcoming event be a culmination of everything the students have accomplished this year and a celebration of their work, with a secondary focus on fundraising. Despite providing the majority of her students' materials out of her own paycheck, Belknap said awareness is the issue, not money.

"These students have moved from abstract expression and passion to expressing themselves in a powerful, powerful way," she said. "The community out here is not always connected to the art that's happening downtown, and that needs to change."

For more information, contact Belknap at Belknap_m@hcde.org.