Published July 2nd, 2022
Meet students from the Bronx High School for the Visual Arts and hear their stories about a profound issue in their school and how they championed change and paved the way for future students!
This History UnErased podcast is funded by the New York City Council Committee on Education. It was developed by History UnErased in partnership with Houses on the Moon Theater Company.
Speaker 1 (00:17): We had the opportunity to collaborate with this podcast group. They allowed us to talk about different equity issues that happened in our school. And most people picked racism, LGBTQ representation, and others. But the main concern we had was art and education. In our school, we felt like we were robbed of an opportunity that we could have had in a different school. Bronx High School for the Visual Arts felt like the school where we could have had more art. If it was more relevant, this is one of the small issues that was going on in the school, except this wasn't just a small issue.
Speaker 2 (00:49): Imagine entering a school with no color to it. All the paint is just white, brown and black. And even the school mascot has the same sad and dull look, a little bit of color present, making a sad attempt of a real art school.
Speaker 3 (01:03): I came in this school being like in love with art and like, I, I always wanted to do art. I've been drawing cause I was like seven. And like I was so into art. Like that was like my hobby. And now I don't do it anymore cause we don't do it anymore.
Speaker 4 (01:21): No, like I remember like I just started sketching like around middle school. I started sketching thinking not
Speaker 5 (01:35): I came to this school specifically because I had a dream to become an amazing artist and to make a career out of it. I imagined myself in a room full of amazing artists in the future, standing on huge towers, like pest students, being the image for all those young students who were in my position before
Speaker 6 (02:02): I've had students over the years that came into visual arts because of art. And then shortly after they kind of fell off and they said, eh, it's not what I thought it was. Yeah. And they even, some of 'em even kind of gave up on practicing their art, which I'm I think, you know, you know, is tragic and they, and you want them to continue cuz it's something they were passionate about.
Speaker 2 (02:22): The school looks so like bland. Like if you were to blindfold me <laugh> and put me in this school and walk around, I would think this is just a regular basic, you know, school in the Bronx and there's just nothing to it. Um, but I feel like when I walk into a classroom where I will walk into the building, I should be inspired. I should be like creating art and I should feel like this. This is an art school. And I will learn.
Speaker 5 (02:46): Seen so many videos where, oh, students who have like cars and everything, like all the way in the suburban areas, they paint their parking lots. Yeah. They paint their parking lots to show. This is where I park. This is my park. Like my parking space, you know, and have something like artistic, even though they may not be in art school. They do something to remember the seniors and they do it every year.
Speaker 1 (03:10): I remember watching this TikTok about this one's art school. It's like Manhattan and they have this one wall where you can go up to it any time and just draw whatever. You'd like, there's some really nice art pieces, some doodles. I feel like we could probably do that here. Like maybe in the cafeteria or like on one of the empty walls in the hallway, like during your lunch, you could like go draw something on the wall.
Speaker 5 (03:37): And seniors from last year, from years ago would bring up the fact that, oh, Hey, like there's not a lot of art in the school and would bring up these ideas. Like I've even brought up this idea with another senior who brought it up last year and a few years ago as well that, oh, we should paint the lockers with removal paint for only the teens. If it's a budget thing. Um, that way it could be something that's memorable, you know? And we just wouldn't be able to do that. The principal just shut it, shut it down because it's not in the budget. We don't have the money for it.
Speaker 1 (04:14): And I know before our principal, our newest principal came in, we had a bunch of our programs. You did? Yeah. We had ceramics, um, pottery photography sculpting. That would be cool. We had, we earned in a sense that name, visual arts. Yeah. But now we're a new principal. Obviously there's like limitations on budget according to the principal. So there's really not much the students themselves can do.
Speaker 2 (04:50): Hold on girl. I mean like it's an all hopeless. As long as us as a student body choose to join together as a community and try to incorporate our talent into our school. We all need to collectively use our voices and our power as students to help create more livelihood in the school environment. Even if we are the only ones to experience the fruit of our labor for not much time, at least other students get to have the privilege of having a school full of color, talent and personality. And they can use us as a stepping stone. And so we decided to create a plan.
Speaker 7 (05:23): Hello, my name is Isaiah moka. And um, a few weeks ago we talked to our principal about the lack of art in our school and how we felt like we could collaborate with her to just make it a more like better place and better experience for everyone coming to the school, expecting art. We are able to color on the lockers now, meaning there's going to be a day, May 6th, where we paint on the lockers. There's a set of 52 lockers. It's like right near the staff bathroom, but is in the middle of the second floor. So we were thinking about using that whole set of lockers to just draw. Um, we have all the supplies already picked out cuz I picked them out. You're welcome everyone in the school, every senior who's going to draw a locker. You are welcome. I really drew two things. I'm really excited about it.
Speaker 1 (06:18): And so the day came, we came into the school on Friday and Saturday and Ian Eaton, a teaching artist from houses on the moon theater company had come to document the event.
Speaker 8 (06:43): Yeah. And like take down some of the, yeah, what I'm saying. <laugh>
Ian (06:48): So I was about to ask, how long has this art up? This has been here since I've been a freshman. Oh, wow. Yeah. So I don't know how long this has been here, but it's just like, you know, switch it up a little bit. So the general consensus has been to like take down the old, bring up some new.
Speaker 8 (07:04): Yeah. And like let people be more creative, like with the art, especially because again, this is a art school.
Speaker 10 (07:13): Remember you could stencil out today. Tomorrow we are here from nine to three. So you have more opportunity to tomorrow. Hopefully we can, maybe we can get into the art room and we can't think of brushes and stuff like that.
Ian (07:27): So can you tell me exactly how this all came about?
Speaker 11 (07:30): So at first this was kind of like a protest in like, Hey, we wanna express ourselves, kinda show the school that we can do. So like we're good at what we do. So this was kind of a protest at first, but that let's just kind of become like a little project. Cool. And an exit thing for the seniors. Nice.
Ian (07:49): Can you describe, uh, some of the process and what it took to get you to this point?
Speaker 7 (07:52): Oh my gosh. Okay. So first we had an inter not, it wasn't an intervention. It was more like a meeting with the principal and then, cause we wanted, we really wanted to get this done like a few years ago. Okay. So now we really was like putting off for down. We're like we really wanna get this done. So we had a meeting with her. She was like, yeah, of course. You know, you can do it but you just need to, you know, you need to order all the supplies for it. That's gonna be on you. So I took on the responsibility of ordering the supplies, organizing it, getting everyone to their lockers or what sections they can do.
Ian (08:23):So from left to right, we've got portraits, we've got, uh, sort of abstract things in the middle.
Speaker 7 (08:29): And then after that there's flowers and then another area for like random art. Okay. And then there's um, cartoons.
Ian (08:36): Are you putting up something yourself?
Speaker 7 (08:38): Yes, of course. It's I'm putting like a little tiger eye with leaves and stuff. It's very complicated. I don't know how to explain it. Can you explain it?
Ian (08:46): Um…
Speaker 7 (08:47): Do you see what I mean?
Speaker 2 (08:56): I think on like a bisexual flag mm-hmm <affirmative> so to spread awareness on the LGBTQ.
Ian (09:03): Cool. Yeah. What, uh, what colors are you using?
Speaker 2 (09:05): Um, pink. Purple and blue.
Ian (09:07): Pink. Purple and blue. Yeah. How do you want other people to feel when they see your work?
Speaker 2 (09:12): Um, I think I just want them to feel inspired to express themselves the way art does too.
Ian (09:17): So. Awesome. Thank you.
Speaker 4 (09:21): And I did like a butterfly and like these hands like changed kind of with and them being scarred. So
Ian (09:27): Yeah. So, so at the bottom there are hands that are bound. Yeah. And then out of the bound hands, you have a butterfly coming up,
Speaker 4 (09:35): Like someone trying to like be free, like, you know, be on their own.
Ian (09:43): So what I'm looking at right now is a heart with webs inside of it. And there's a crown on top and there's stars all around everything. Is that right?
Speaker 4 (09:53): Also kind of reminds me of like how people have their own kind of things going on within them. Right. Mm-hmm <affirmative> like flaws that other people may not like, like personality wise.
Speaker 4 (10:05): As long as you see yourself, as you know, the royalty that you are. And you know, see that you are then, you know, everything will
Ian (10:11): Work out. Yeah. That'll be alright. That's awesome. So right now I, I see you. You're working on your crown.
Speaker 2 (10:16): Yes.
Ian (10:19): lt looks great.
Speaker 2 (10:20): Thank you.
Ian (10:23): How do you feel about having the opportunity to do something like this?
Speaker 1 (10:27): It feels great to be honest, like this is like the first major project that I'm aware of.
Ian (10:31): You. You're a senior.
Speaker 1 (10:33): Uh, I'm a graduate.
Ian (10:34): Oh, you're a graduate. So you're done already. Yeah. I'm so you never had an opportunity to do something like this?
Speaker 2 (10:39): Like this? No.
Ian (10:41): Oh yeah.
Speaker 2 (10:44): Done. No, I can't really finish cause I need more white.
Ian (10:47): What's your name?
Speaker 2 (10:49): Oh, I'm Gabby. Gabby. The assistant principal. You, I love the collaboration and like we've been speaking to them, nobody's paying attention to us and we're like, wow, they're really engrossed in the work and it's what they wanna do. And you see how
Speaker 7 (11:08): Everyone's so happy right now.
Ian (11:09): Yeah, definitely.
Speaker 7 (11:10): Very good, I feel like if this was done, like in the beginning of the year or like freshman year. This would've been like a really good like school bonding time. You know what I mean?
Ian (11:21): The general question for you guys. Are you accustomed to working in a group this way? Or is this something new for you?
Speaker 2 (11:27): Not at all. <laugh> I don't like working in group at all. Yeah. I don’t like working in groups too. Look at that here. They all are working groups, especially honestly like I like the company. It just I'm so used to I'm very extroverted, but I'm used to working alone, especially like at home so I feel like I it's, like, I feel like I'm being judged for some reason. I about to mention the fact that everyone's gonna see this on Monday. Oh yeah, exactly. And I just like, we're gonna get judged.
Speaker 10 (11:56): You're not gonna get judged. No, no, no, no. People are trying. It's so impressive. Uhuh. We should be judged as everybody who said, oh, we don't do anything. And here's this opportunity and have to show up.
Ian (12:10): Do you guys get inspired by each other's work?
Speaker 2 (12:13): That's the only reason I'm drawing Pokemon. Cause I saw my Asia drawing Pokemon, so I was like, ah, CRO Pokemon. So I better free.
Speaker 8 (12:21): I'm very happy. I'm glad that it came out. It came out so well. I was like kind of nervous doing like the hello kitty part. Cause like I don't draw that well, but it came out like really pretty.
Speaker 2 (12:29): I like it a lot.
Ian (12:29): Yeah. It looks really nice. Thank you.
Ian (12:33): You just wish you could use that locker though.
Speaker 8 (12:35): Yes. Use it like for my last two months here, like senior privilege or something. I don't see why every senior in this school cannot have a locker and this could be our introduction in September, you know, to really nice bonding. You decorate your locker and it should be an honor. Like not every, I don't think we have enough lockers for all the kids, but it doesn't matter because the seniors should have that little perk mm-hmm and this will be their engagement. And then, you know, the next year and the next year.
Ian (13:03): How do you guys feel about the final product?
Speaker 2 (13:08): Like everything and being together.
Ian (13:10): So it's more of the being together and doing it together is the biggest part of it.
Speaker 2 (13:17): So they asked me like, Hey, like, should we turn it to one of our friends, but, but both are keeping the integrity of my original character too. It's nice. It's like a collaboration already. So it's so cool.
Ian (13:28): Did you guys expect this level of collaboration or did you…
Speaker 2 (13:31): No, not at all. I'm being so honest with you. I don't know. I just haven't processed that. Like we've hated the lockers, you know?
Ian (13:38): How does it feel?
Speaker 2 (13:41): How even it's it's just like, it almost feesl like it should have been there in the first place. You know what I mean? I feel like it is so like, it fits so well. That's why I haven't like processed like a change almost. You know what I mean? But yeah, it's so wonderful. I love this. It's like people, people who were saying they're not artistic, just did it all day. Just like I'm so proud of them. Does everybody use artistic? Does anybody wanna use that? You said in their own, like way shape.
Ian (14:17): Would you describe for us what you're working on?
Speaker 4 (14:19): Like mask, kind of in a way some masks. Yeah. It represents like a person who hides himself. Mm.
Ian (14:27): And what's your name again?
Speaker 4 (14:28): Amy. Rosak.
Ian (14:30): Thank you. Thank you.
Speaker 10 (14:31): Yes, he did an amazing job, right?
Speaker 2 (14:34): Gabby
Speaker 10 (14:36): Right here. Um, 155. He did such a good job.
Speaker 2 (14:40): Good job. He has the, oh my God. It was so, I didn't even know. You know, it's amazing. You really find out about students.
Ian (14:49): It looks like a stencil that he did all of that.
Speaker 10 (14:51): That right hand. Yes, he did. It really, the for prince it's like perfect. It's perfect. They all have all this talent that's being hidden or, or, you know what it was hindered. You know what I mean? Not being able to do all this to really express it because they, because they really wanna do art. They really wanna do art. And I think they prove themselves that, you know, the art that they're willing to do is really amazing.
Speaker 2 (15:22): It’s kind of representing me. I'm looking away because it's, it's supposed to represent like I'm looking away from high school and I'm like moving on somewhere. Like I want to be moving onto the next level.
Ian (15:37)Yeah. Cool. Thank you. Now I heard you guys talking about whether or not this was gonna remain a tradition or something like that.
Speaker 7 (15:41): I think it should. And it just makes sense that it would remain a tradition.
Ian (15:44): You think it will though?
Speaker 11 (15:46): This is a small school. There's only a few number of seniors. So it would be pretty easy to have every year seniors paint lockers. So how many lockers there are, yeah.
Speaker 7 (15:56): Compared to how many seniors are here, but for the question of, do we think it will.
Speaker 11 (15:59): That's all Miss Witherspoon.
Speaker 7 (16:01): Suppose that's up for our principal to decide.
Ian (16:04): Do you think it's also the, the student's responsibility to make it happen?
Speaker 7 (16:08): Yeah, I agree with that. It is the student's responsibility to make the plan to actually do it.
Speaker 10 (16:16): I can't wait to see everybody's face Monday when they come in. I can't wait to see the faces on staff. That's seniors gonna wish they came, be like, oh, I didn't know this was happening. Like can we do it again next week. Can we do it, would like with permission from the principal, I would like to leave these up until every locker is filled with the upcoming rising classes. And then when we come around this way, this is definitely like a nice vibe to come down the hall. Yeah. It's very creative. It shows identity, everybody, you know, personal life, their own. And I think something that should be continuous, like not just in this one block area, I think there should be something ongoing throughout the whole school. You know what, even the walls, everything erase until they all get filled, filled up for each class after four years, they could erase. So this could live for four years. And then the next class I think. So I think the only things that needs to be preserved, like I'm afraid is man, it's a modge pod over that.
Speaker 10 (17:32): And they remove it with, um, rubbing alcohol, I think. Yeah. And acid. So we're bring y'all back when it comes to that, oh, the blue tape guys, if you can take off the blue tape around, so everything's nice and neat. It looks sweet. This looks amazing. That's NICE beautiful. We have to clean up guys. Yeah. Cause we have the permit until three. So security is gonna…
Ian (18:09): Well, give yourselves a round of applause. Fantastic. Very, very good work.
Speaker 7 (18:17): Definitely. Uh, well it doesn't look like much right now, but it's supposed to be a flower. Okay. A flower. Yes. And we're gonna, what colors are you working with? I'm working with green currently. And I, the, I, the idea is to, to make it unfold, you know? So, you know, let a little, little, little flower grows, yeah. Let it sprout and see where it goes from there.
Ian (18: 39): Great. See if you got some green, some orange, some, some blue. I see some sky blue. Well, it it's gonna come in. It's gonna come in more, but yeah, this is the thing right now. We're just starting just the, just the roots, just the roots. And tell me your name again.
Okay. Thank you. Gabriel’s locker art project was just the first seed. How will we as a community, keep on planting, great ideas and let art and beauty grow in this space. Students and staff, the senior class is moving on, who will plant the next great idea who attend and nurture our garden, who will let unfold.
Jeffrey (19:37): This podcast series is funded by the New York City Council and developed by History UnErased and Houses on the Moon Theater Company in partnership with the New York City Department of Education. Very special, thanks to the Bronx High School for Visual Arts principal, Iris Witherspoon, the assistant principal, Gabriel Panagoisoulis. Okay. And the amazing College and Career teacher, Teresa Marino. Thank you so much to the students who brought your heart, your passion, and your talent to create a better school. I also had to give a big shout-out to the podcast teaching team, which includes me, Jeffrey Solomon, the amazing musician and sound designer, Raleigh, the fabulous Dinah Mack from History UnErased, and the whole History UnErased team. And of course our teaching artist extraordinaire, Ian, and check us out Houses!