New Castle kids join global street art project |

New Castle kids join global street art project

Julia Costa
Jessica Cabe / Post Independent |

Last week, the art students at Riverside Middle School in New Castle struggled to paste 3-by-4.5-foot portraits of themselves onto the bumpy bricks at the front of the school building. The black-and-white images — 80 in total — serve as part of the classes’ street art unit and allow the students to be participants in a global art project called Inside Out.

“I heard about it a couple months ago,” said art teacher Jessica Gordon. “I was just doing research for one of our art projects that was based on street art, and I just ran across this artist. He had a TED talk, and I watched that and thought, ‘That’s so cool. We should check into that.’”

The artist, known only as JR, won the TED prize in 2011 at the TED Conference in Long Beach, California, and called for global participation in the art project with the belief that it can change the world.

Inspired by JR’s own street pastings, the idea of Inside Out is to encourage everyone to share their portraits and illustrate something that defines them or something they believe in. In putting so many faces with so many expressions into the public eye, the project aims to inspire understanding and acceptance of individuals’ diversity. The Inside Out project has seen nearly 200,000 participants from more than 112 countries and territories, inspiring group actions on themes like hope, diversity, gender-based violence, climate change and more.

“I think just learning about the goal of the project and how it can give people a voice to show their opinion on something or make a statement has been good for the kids,” Gordon said. “There are no messages of violence or anything like that — only peaceful messages. And they get to participate in something global.”

The process to participate in Inside Out was an easy one, Gordon said.

“Honestly, today is being the hardest day because of the brick problem,” she said of the stubborn, rough, unsticky surface of the building. The images have since been moved into the windows of the school.

After finding out about the project, Gordon sent an email to the organizers and was told she would be given free posters for her students. Gordon took photos of the kids who wanted to participate and sent the files to Inside Out, which then sent the completed posters to the school.

“Some kids were pretty shy about it, you know?” Gordon said. “They were like, ‘I don’t want my face on a giant poster!’ But I think we got a lot of participation.”

The kids outside hanging their portraits were anything but shy, though, and they overwhelmingly expressed understanding about the goal of the project.

“I learned that everybody has a voice, and that everybody’s voice should be heard,” said eighth-grader Litzy Rivera.

“I learned that since the whole world did it, it would be really cool if we did it,” said sixth-grader Julia Costa. “And I learned also that it takes a lot more time and teamwork to do it than I thought.”

The concept that art can change the world can sound hokey, but the kids at Riverside Middle School seemed convinced.

“This project shows that we’re here, and it shows that we’re willing to help show that we’re here,” said sixth-grader Emily Vines. “It shows difference. Everybody’s different in the end, and everybody’s willing to help with something in the end. It’s a way to change the world.”

But sixth-grader Luke Rippy may have learned the most important lesson of all.

“This was fun!”

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