Scott Ruescher, ARCK’s founding board member visited ARCK’s classroom at the Blackstone School, a Boston Public School — witnessing our impact through ARCK’s Creators Program.

Hear and read his observation and impression as an artist himself.

Written by Scott Ruescher

A Hole in the Wall at the Blackstone Innovation School

Audra Keefe, studio-arts teacher for the Art Resources Collaborative for Kids, likes to tell about a middle-school student at Gardner Pilot Academy, a public school in Allston.

“She had a flair for drawing and painting,” says Audra. “Her teachers didn’t know about it until she showed them projects from our Friday ARCK class.”

The Gardner has its own art teacher for first and second graders, but not for older students.

“When I told her about the Boston Arts Academy, she hesitated to apply. But I convinced her to make a portfolio. She finally agreed — and won a slot at BAA.”

Today, Audra is preparing for a third-grade class at the bilingual Blackstone Innovation School, in a South End block bounded by the Villa Victoria and Cathedral housing developments. Each of the dozen children in the host classroom of Ms. Llaverías is from a Spanish-speaking family.

Here they come now, in fact, fresh from lunch, swarming the table like bees in clover to see what nectar is for dessert today.

“Ms. Audra,” says one sweet girl with pink ribbons in her Afro puffs and a pink heart on her t-shirt. “Are we gonna work on the Lovewall like we did last week?”

“Yes,” says Ms. Audra, “we are going to work on the Lovewall today.”

A collection of works from Audra’s weekly visits, the completed Lovewall will be applied to a background and installed on a hallway wall, replacing a chair that covers a hole the school hasn’t had the resources to repair — roughly the size of potholes in the flagstone walkway to the school’s main entrance.

This isn’t near the gentrified parts of the South End known for Union Park, the Southwest Corridor, and the Center for the Arts plaza. But that doesn’t prevent Ms. Audra from being ready with her class plan.

Before class, she covered the desks with newsprint, took painting supplies from the bag that serves as her art cart, and spread last week’s results around the worktable — small square paintings, some with rainbow designs, layered sunset colors, or cool dark backgrounds evenly sparkled with hot yellow sun-like dots.

“Today,” says Ms. Audra to the class, “you are going to paint a heart and paste it onto the painting you made last week. I will collect the hearts, and we’ll make a mural in the hall. The Lovewall!

Placing her portable 3-D printer on a table against the wall , she runs off enough heart shapes for the whole class, tears them from the cardstock sheets, and passes them around.

Since the Lovewall is “dedicated to kindness and consideration for others,” says Audra, the heart is an obvious choice — one that pop artists such as Romero Britto and Jim Dine use, defying dictates against imagery with “received” associations.

For nine-year-olds like those in this class, the heart as a symbol of affectionate feeling for others is still fresh.

“When you paint your heart, choose colors that will stand out against the background, warm colors like red and yellow for a dark background, cool ones like dark blue and brown for a light background.”

The third graders have been studying color, and they are ready. A Puerto Rican girl who code-switches between Spanish and English declares that “red and blue make purple.” A boy from the Dominican Republic, reminding Audra that the Spanish for brown is “marrón,” works with a serene little girl from El Salvador to mix a batch of brown paint in her tray. “Basically, you use all of your colors to make brown,” Audra reminds them.

Unless they’re doing collaborative projects in science, math, or language arts, they may not have as much fun as this in their usual day at the Blackstone. But it’s not frivolous fun — it’s interactive, relational, like the gatherings that are a hallmark of their family-oriented cultures. It calls for them to help each other, be considerate. They work together to produce that brown paint — as if each student represents a different color that contributes to the common result.

They work together to cover that hole in the wall.

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Sara Mraish-Demeter

Founder @ARCKBoston provides arts-integrated education to ignite creativity, build self-awareness, and empower students to realize their full potential