Artist in residence Mary Lacy led an immersive, semester-long exploration of art and community for high schoolers in the Burlington City & Lake Semester program (BCL). Near the end of the semester, each student made an original piece of art in response to the question, “What makes community thrive?”
Music and Art
In the end, I want my art to act like the Lorax and “speak for the trees” The natural world is all around us; it is an integral part of the Burlington community, but sometimes this can be hard to remember. I hope that my art can provide a gentle reminder that while trees and waves do not speak, they too are community members.
Religion is very important because a lot of other people base others’ religions off of their race. This is a chance to educate people to accept everyone and respect who they are. I want my art to educate the community in Burlington about diversity. Also, to raise awareness.
I want my art to portray the experience of being a part of BCL, which focused on hands on and experiential learning in our community and with our education. Further, learning, especially the hands on learning we did in BCL, motivates learners to take action and make a difference. My art shows that an important aspect of what it takes to thrive is to have people who have education through experience and are learning about the problems that need addressing, and because of those experiences, are driven to fix those issues, or at the very least make decisions that work to solve issues.
I want my art to inspire people to be creative and to show that you can be different.
I want my art to open up conversations about what does friendship mean as a community and as an individual.
By getting people to become more aware of the systems and communities they function in, then hopefully they will start to make improvements for themselves and others. Burlington is an extremely diverse community and art like this can provoke its members to hold themselves accountable for the quality of life here and make sure we thrive together.
The words Black Lives Matter symbolize the feelings of belonging and inclusion in a community where black people are supported every day. This is something that a lot of people of color haven’t felt, especially with how America is right now. In reality the experience of people of color is linked to so many other injustices of today.
Most importantly before any decision making we need to look around and ask ourselves who’s missing from the table whose lives could be affected by the decisions about to be made.
I believe that art does not force the viewer to do anything, but merely encourages intrigue. I hope that with my art, and my peers’ art, we can intrigue our different audiences to understand the words better, and understand what they can do to a community. My word “vulnerability” is a noun, not a verb. But I like that because I think that there are a lot of different verbs that connect what vulnerability can do for a community. Art can engender vulnerability in a community, just as ours, because sometimes art means taking a risk.
Curiosity, both in individuals and in a community creates room for creativity, questions, problem solving and expansion of our learning. My artwork is a representation of this. It displays creativity and shows how curiosity can expand thoughts, provoke wonder, and create ideas for our future.
My art shows a flower growing with a butterfly flying around it once it has grown. Sometimes when things grow it helps other things grow. In this case, a butterfly can now drink nectar from the flower. The flower grew and now the butterfly will be able to grow because it has food. Thanks to the growth of a flower, the butterfly is able to thrive.
Communities are fluid and constantly changing. This change comes from people who stand up against the status quo and advocate for change.
I want to make people more aware of what joy is, because I think it is an underappreciated emotion, and is often confused with happiness. I want people to become more aware of when they are feeling joyful, or the little things that make them feel like their heart is going to rise right out of their chests (this is something that I personally associate with joy) and actively try to fill their lives or surroundings with more joyful moments. Joy forces us to focus and come back to the present (we spend a lot of time with our heads in the future or the past). Joy can make people more fully appreciate their life and become happier people who actively make their surroundings more joyful and happy, which can lead the way to a thriving community.
I believe a place is made up physical space, as well as feelings, and the people who inhabit those places. To really thrive, you need to have a place which fulfills all three of those categories: has a comforting physical location, has the capacity to support you mentally, and is filled with people you love. To me, BCL is that place. The classroom is comfortable, the environment is chill and friendly, and my classmates are the kindest and genuine people I’ve ever met. So, I wanted to show that in my piece.
Eventually, I chose the word community. I chose this word because I felt like people would get an idea of what my art piece meant by it.
Whether it is the center of downtown, or the basement of a neighborhood center, community has a defined location that draws the power of the people together. This is why my word is associated with prominent Burlington architecture. These places are landmarks of Burlington’s community, and are where people have thrived and created connections in the city’s history.
I think diversity is necessary because it brings inclusion and comfort for everyone which I think is a very important aspect for a community to thrive. I hope my art will inspire people to be more Inclusive and open to everyone and not just people but communities.
Treating a person for who they could be, (putting judgments aside), makes yourself more susceptible to be hurt, but it also allows that certain person to live up and possibly be something even greater than what they thought they could ever be.
To rise above is to become better than your challenges and accept what’s happened with growth.
Growth and Youth
I want my art to show the importance of youth because even though people say young children and adults are the future, their voices and opinions often get overlooked and are invalidated because of their age. I think a big part in having a community grow and thrive has to do with listening and taking into serious consideration what young people have to say because they think, see and feel in an entirely different way than grown adults.
I choose the word joy because I believe it is one of the key things that helps a community thrive, as well as the feeling of joy can be a result to a thriving community.
This piece of art has two main intentions behind it. The first is to challenge people to confront their biases and live in the world with an open mind. I hope that people will be inspired to bring more empathy with them into their lives and the lives of others. The second is to humanize people. My piece has a background of newspaper clippings, representing the stories that every person has to tell, and the common experience that we share. The paper cut-out figures are real people who had their pictures as part of a story in the newspaper. One of them is a little boy who loves to dance who won a birthday competition in the KidsVT newspaper. Another is a Bhutanese woman whose family started a religious group here in Burlington. The last is a musician who was featured in Seven Days. The simple, black-and-white silhouettes represent diverse people in our community, yet when you look at them you can’t immediately ascribe characteristics to them based on race, ethnicity, age, religion, ability, or any number of other labels. The silhouettes represent people and their unique stories before anything else.
The Burlington City & Lake Semester was funded in part by an Arts Council Arts Impact Grant.