Students from the San Diego County Office of Education's Juvenile Court and Community Schools (JCCS) will have their artwork featured in the Words Alive Art & Lit Exhibit, which will be publicly unveiled on June 5 at the San Diego Art Institute in Balboa Park.
The students are participants in the Words Alive's Adolescent Book Group (ABG), which brings books to life for teenagers facing extraordinary circumstances such as homelessness, violence, teen pregnancy, and impact by the justice system. The art piece, The Radius of All of Us, is a unique exhibition inspired by Marie Marquardt’s The Radius of Us. The art piece is designed by community artist Sue Britt, facilitated by Words Alive, and created by students attending schools from North County to the border. Schools participating include Monarch School, Lindsay Community School, and Reflections/YDC North.
Once a year, ABG students participate in a programwide project that enhances the reading experience and encourages them to think critically about themes in the book and their own environment. Through creative writing, art, and a service project, students connect the novel to the world as they explore themes of perception and transformation and grapple with the complex issues of trauma and immigration.
The artwork created involves students examining their own identities and creating a “radius of themselves” using inks and translucent paper. Each student’s radius will come together with their peers’ work to form a phoenix – a mythological bird reborn from its ashes – a symbol of how trust and sharing with others can lead to personal growth and transformation.
In total, five pieces will be displayed, one for each classroom participating in ABG. Each individual student’s art piece contributes to the larger piece, and each classroom produces one large piece. In addition to the art from current students, a former JCCS and Words Alive scholarship recipient will have a whole wall of art. He is currently a graphic design/illustration major at Point Loma Nazarene University.
Students found meaning in exploring the novel The Radius of Us in this way. In the book, Phoenix Flores is an asylum seeker from El Salvador, fleeing gang violence. Students made real-world connections to people from the migrant caravan arriving at the San Diego border. To help refugees and asylum seekers feel welcomed, they wrote positive and reassuring letters to them with messages such as, “I hope that you find new friends, new places, and new jobs. I hope you have a great life.” Words Alive has partnered with Jewish Family Service to deliver these letters.
A public reception will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. June 5 at San Diego Art Institute, 1439 El Prado in San Diego. The San Diego Art Institute is showcasing the artwork and the letters to refugees as part of the Youth Alliance Showcase, featuring work from three organizations from June 4 to 15.