Diversity and Unity through Art
By Aly Quiroz-Perez, Program Associate
Every year, PVF awards hundreds of grants through our Teacher Resource Grant programs, and it is always a treat when we have the chance to meet the teachers and their students. It was especially a treat to see the result of a Visiting Artist in the Classroom grant at Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8 School in San Francisco. The school’s art coordinator, Bob Armstrong, planned a school-wide art project to reinforce unity among students, teachers, and the community to counter what feels like a divisive political climate. Two teachers partnered with visiting ceramic artists and involved all 600 students at the school in creating a permanent ceramic wall installation: clay flowers, used to “symbolize variety, diversity, new life, and hope.”
Each grade level was assigned a specific type of flower. Kindergartners were tasked with creating sunflowers since it was the easiest and simplest flower to make. Students in grades 1-4 were asked to create daisies, petunias, daffodils, and calla lilies while the students in grades 5-8 were in charge of making poppies, gardenias, hibiscus, and roses. The teachers and other school staff made orchids. As students created these clay flowers, they were also learning geometry concepts, thinking about the shape and the number of petals that characterized each flower.
Along with PVF’s Program & Communications Associate, Anita Kao, I went to a special ceremony to celebrate the completed project, which was mounted at the school entrance. The visiting artists reflected on the meaning of the giant flower made up of smaller flowers: “This is your reminder of how important you are to this community. Every time you look at this big mural you will remember that you are welcome, you are valuable, and you are a special part of this community.”
This art piece was truly inspirational not only because of its message of unity and diversity, but also because students, teachers, parents, school staff, and volunteers worked together to create something beautiful. We encourage you to stop by Buena Vista Horace Mann School and see for yourself what a partnership between a school and a grassroots grantmaker like PVF can do.