Through a fortuitous meeting with staff at the Lexington Living Art and Science Center, I am now connected to University of Kentucky’s unique LexEngage program.
LEXengaged is a first-year residential program on UK’s north campus, close to downtown Lexington, in which civic engagement is applied to students’ day-to-day life. Through course readings, discussions, guest speakers, and off-campus tours, participants gain a greater understanding of the larger community, focusing on engagement, service learning and social justice.
My job as a teaching artist is to help UK students interact with students at William Wells Brown via unique visual art experiences that focus on the topic of homelessness — something near and dear to my heart. Our first project was “Who I Am” in which students built trust and understanding via tracing each others’ bodies and filing them in with name designs that expressed who they are using color, line, shape, placement and size — basic design concepts.
Our second project on February 15, 2017, was based on the Cardboard Stories collected by Orlando Florida’s ReThinking Homelessness project. UK and William Wells Brown students made a list of words associated with the homeless, then discussed how those things — dirtiness, torn old clothing, etc. — are just superficial signs and are, in many ways, the way we look at times and for reasons other than homelessness. This pressed home the fact that the homeless are indeed “just like us”.
Then students brainstormed a list of things about themselves that no one would know by just looking at them. They picked a few and transferred them to cardboard, and we hung them up and talked about the funny ones, the sad ones, and especially the unexpected ones.