Last Friday, the eighth grade had the opportunity to collaborate with Catalonian/Spanish artist Núria Güell. Núria was invited to visit New York to participate in a group exhibition of politically active artists. Núria’s concept for the show was to invite a prominent war veteran and activist, Mike Prysner, to talk to students about his experience in the Iraq war and encourage questions and discussions around patriotism.
Mike spoke to us about growing up wanting to join the army and to be a war hero. He saw the army as an opportunity to be a part of something honorable and bigger than himself and to do good. He talked about playing with GI Joe and the video game Call of Duty. He also talked about the lead up to the Iraq war, and how hard it was to find any perspective on the war that differed from what the Bush administration was saying. He talked about how he followed his Commander in Chief to war. He then shared a lot about his experiences in Iraq. It was powerful, real and left the students feeling sad, angry, disgusted and outraged. He really brought home everything Nassim has taught the class about the Iraq war in Current Events.
As part of the experience, the eighth-graders created reflections using modeling clay (a metaphor for how citizens may be modeled by established institutions). Each and every student created something and spoke about what had moved them to create it. The artist, the curator, the veteran and the teachers were blown away by their creations.
The students’ artwork is now part of A Certain Urge (Towards Turmoil), an exhibit at the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts that brings together seven artists, including Núria, from Mexico, Spain, Chile and the United States. You can see the students work from now until May 2016 at EFA Project Space, 323 West 39th Street in New York City.