Many Looks, One Love

| 30 Sep 2011 | 09:46

Inside Out Project comes to Warwick Valley High School Warwick - Can art change the world? Can we, as a small group of individuals help use art to create a conversation in our community about diversity, acceptance, and unity? These were a few of the questions that inspired a group of Philosophy and Literature students at Warwick Valley High School to post about 50 large scale (three-foot by four-foot) posters of students’ faces and eyes on the exterior and interior of their school building. Ten faces pasted on the wall beneath the agricultural program’s greenhouse and representing a wide range of expressions, ethnicities and social groups within the student body, all look, together, toward the bus drop off and the middle school. Three additional faces stare out from the stairway that leads up to the high school. More faces on both sides of the building and a wall of eyes, gazing out from the corner facing Sanfordville Road, seem to both ask questions and suggest some answers. The project’s tag, “Many Looks/One Love,” taken from the song by Bob Marley, hints at a message of tolerance and understanding. It fits well with the high school’s “Stay Human” motto and with widespread efforts being made by staff and students, alike, to discourage bullying. One day Although the project took two months to plan and execute, the pasting took place on May 31, the final day of the Memorial Day weekend vacation. Twenty-six students worked from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. to hang the exhibition, with homemade wheat paste. “My students were very passionate about this project and dedicated to the idea of initiating what they consider to be an important conversation, both in the school and in the community,” said teacher Wendy Insinger. “That 60 students could keep this a secret for two months in a big public high school is rather amazing. They worked tirelessly to shoot and edit portraits, raise funds, interface with administration, organize pasting teams, create graffiti tags and strategize how to best get their message across. “Most of this was done after school or on Facebook,” Insinger added. “There was no extra credit involved and they came in on a non-school day to do the pasting. 'Many Looks/One Love’ really came from their hearts.” The Warwick group’s action is part of the global “Inside Out Project” created by French street artist, JR, who recently was awarded the TED Prize to make a wish to change the world. When John Coladonato, one of Insinger’s former philosophy students, sent her the video of JR’s Ted Prize speech, she showed it to her classes. They were instantly inspired. 'Emotions from the inside out’ “The term 'Inside Out’ is perfect for this project, no matter how you look at it - something has been completely flipped on its head,” said Andy Lawson, one of the team captains for the pasting. “The subjects in the pictures have brought their emotions from the inside out. “It began with an idea, and inspiration from J.R.,” he added, “but it ended up being something completely unique to us. We took J.R.’s wish and turned it inside out.” Junior Kristiana Nelson was on the photography team. “The transformation was what amazed me most,” she said. “To see the colored picture on the little screen of my camera turned into a three foot black and white statement piece was inspiring. I knew when I saw the posters that my school would be inspired as well.” Warwick Valley’s posting is one of the first group actions in the world and probably the first school group action in the United States. Other non-school groups have posted in Brooklyn, Nepal, South Dakota, Brazil, Tunisia, Peru and Pakistan. A photo/poster printing booth was recently set up at the Pompidou Museum in Paris, so that people can instantly participate. The TED Organization which is, according to its Web site, “a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading,” hosts annual conferences and presents an annual prize of $100,000 to help make a world-changing wish come true. Because JR refuses to be associated with any corporations or brands, TED is not able to use any of it’s corporate sponsorship to fund his wish and is raising the money through private, anonymous donors. WVHS students chose to raise the money to pay for their posters and make a donation to the project, so that needier groups around the world could take advantage of the money TED raises. Previous TED Prize winners have included, among others, chef Jaimie Oliver, former president Bill Clinton and musician Bono. “I believe the project we did was a great experience for all the students involved” said senior Cody Ramos, who was one of the chief fundraisers and in charge of the student video crew, “ and really brought everyone together in an out-of-the-classroom experience.” Grafitti artist seeks to change the world The Warwick Valley High School group action is part of the global Inside Out Project created by French street artist simply known by his initials - JR. JR, who began at age 17, in Paris, as a graffiti artist, has done major, large-scale outdoor photographic exhibitions in hot spots all over the world. Most of his work is devoted to giving faces to the faceless and voices to the voiceless. He also uses art as a form of visual argument: For instance, pasting a life-sized poster of a minaret in Switzerland the day after minarets were banned there. In one project, called “Face To Face,” he took photos of people in Israel and Palestine who did the same jobs (taxi driver, lawyer, etc.) and pasted them next to each other on both sides of the wall in eight cities. He then asked the question: “Can you tell which one is from which side?” Most viewers could not. His wish is that people all over the world will take pictures of themselves and paste large format portraits for the world to see. In this way, people around the globe can act together “to turn the world Inside Out. More To watch JR’s Ted Prize speech: Videos of the WVHS Project: To see more info for of the WVHS “Many Looks/One Love” project: