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Educator Reflections: The Studio Museum in Harlem and Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School

Studio Museum

Imagine you are a high-school Humanities teacher in the Bronx. What are your expectations? How do you prepare yourself for class?

Over the past six years at Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom School in the South Bronx, we've invited resident artists to visit us. Throughout the year we work with The Studio Museum in Harlem to prepare for these visits creating projects that align with our curriculum and enhance what we are teaching in the classroom.

This partnership sets the foundation for awarding our students the opportunity to create their own artworks inspired by texts in our curriculum. For example, while reading Night by Elie Weisel, our students created artworks that combined painting materials with text in order to reconsider the language in the novel. In another instance, each student created a Grecian-style urn crafting narratives while plotting their own “hero’s journey.” In producing their urns, each participant demonstrated their understanding of mythology informed by their study of writer Joseph Campbell and The Power of Myth. Most recently, students chose heroes from the Haitian Revolution and painted them while interrogating the histories of colonization and the slave trade.

These projects and others allow students to delve into English Language Arts (ELA) and Social Studies skills including: analysis, interpretation and close reading. Through the execution of each project, classrooms collectively explore the meaning of their findings through art.

In our Humanities classes, we want to empower our students to become better readers, writers and speakers. Through our partnership with The Studio Museum in Harlem, students have accessed these skills in ways we couldn’t have taught using traditional means, and hopefully, together we have done our part in nurturing the next generation of artists along the way.

Fannie Lou Hamer High School and The Studio Museum in Harlem have maintained an ongoing collaboration in school programs for over 14 years. Alison Gazarek is the lead ELA teacher in the 9th and 10th grade Humanities at Fannie Lou Hamer High School. She has worked on this partnership for the last 6 years as lead contact on the partnership.