Today at Florida Mesa, I approached a 4th grader who had thought out her project and written a few sentences about what she loved about Durango. This was the creative process we chose for this school: we discussed the public art project, then the kids wrote down what they love about Durango and why, then they were to cut out symbols of Durango in silhouette. But this young lady was not creating the art project. She was fidgeting and clearly flustered.
”What’s going on?” I asked. “Why aren’t you drawing your symbol out?”
”May I read what you wrote? Maybe we can figure out where to start from there,” I offered.
She shrugged again.
”I like McDonalds and then going to the Rec,” she had written.
”This is great!” I said. “Are you having trouble deciding what your symbol should be?”
”I think I have to start over,” she said shyly.
”Why? I think this is a great idea.”
”It’s not important to everybody. It’s not important like trees or nature, or like firefighters or the train.”
”I have a hunch,” I said, “that it’s not just about McDonalds and the Rec. I bet you chose those things because it’s about time spent with your family; eating together and then playing together. Right? So McDonalds and the Rec is about family and fun.” She nodded emphatically.
”That is exactly what I am looking for. I don’t want you to guess what is important to the whole community. I want to know what is important to you.” She brightened up and gave me a great silhouette of a Big Mac. And I heard her explaining to her table, “Mine is about FAMILY.”
This went down perfectly in my opinion. Ideally I will be able to include all of the things that are important to the community, but the thing that will make this piece of art personal and quirky, special and interesting, will be stories like this one. I love that this little girl grasped a bigger story, too, and learned what symbolism is, and found her own symbol for something that ultimately IS important to the whole community: Family.
~Allison Leigh Smith