Exchanging art and culture

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Students admiring Upper School artwork that was produced for the art exchange Anissa Arakal '19

Audrey Jacobs of Red Cloud Indian School (Red Cloud) on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota visited Sacred Heart Greenwich from Monday, February 27 to Wednesday, March 1. During her stay at Sacred Heart, Ms. Jacobs represented Red Cloud in the school-wide art exchange and participated in an Upper School chapel. The art exchange aims to broaden both schools’ understanding of each other, and draw parallels and contrasts between the two distinct cultures. 

Sacred Heart students visiting Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in summer of 2016
Katie McCabe ’18

The Red Cloud Indian School Committee, comprised of 12 Sacred Heart faculty and staff members, has been working to bring the school communities together for three years now. Ever since the two schools joined forces, Sacred Heart students and faculty have visited Pine Ridge Indian Reservation annually. In addition, members of the Red Cloud community, such as Father George Winzenburg, often come to Sacred Heart.  Sacred Heart students and faculty are planning a return to Pine Ridge this year as well. 
Students from both Red Cloud and Sacred Heart are participating in an art exchange based on the objects they find most important to them. Seventeen Sacred Heart Upper School Drawing and Painting students, 26 Upper School Photography students, and a class of Middle and Lower School art students engaged in this project.
“I am excited by the common threads that run throughout the work, which show what is special to every child. Where the differences lie there will be opportunity for great learning about the vast differences in their environment and ours. I have a feeling we are going to see more similarities than differences,” Upper School Photography Teacher and member of The Red Cloud Indian School Committee Ms. Kev Filmore said.
The art exchange is based on the “Special Object” that students find to be most important in their lives. Upper School Art Teacher Mrs. Paula Westcott and her students created drawings of these objects along with a written artist statement. Student artwork from this project is on display outside of the School Chapel.
Despite being 1,699 miles apart in different cultures, students from Red Cloud and Sacred Heart both chose to represent their dogs as their most beloved object.
Anissa Arakal ’19

The main goal of the art exchange is to ignite a cultural exchange and seeing new people’s ideas. I hope both schools can gain a deeper perspective of each other and form a deeper relationship,” Ms. Jacobs said.
Along with exchanging art, the students are also exchanging cultural values. While the work from both schools is on display, so are the similarities and differences in what each culture values.  Since both groups of students have the same assignment, to represent what matters to them most, it is easy to draw comparisons and differences between what the two cultures find important.  The objects the students choose to create reflects what they cherish in their lives.
“This is my handicapped dog. His name is Takini, which means survivor in Lakota. I choose him because he is very dear to me. He is named so because he has endeavored a broken back, and is one of the three puppies to survive out of eleven, eight of which died. This is the reason I choose him,” Tekuani Maestas, a student at Red Cloud Indian School wrote. 
The hallway display full of vibrant colors attracts the attention of all who walk past. Students created an array of work with colored pencils, watercolors, and digital cameras. The students “special objects” ranged from jewelry, mementos, and old artifacts, to students favorite drinks, sports equipment, and toys.
“I think that some of the similarities in the work between the schools are an interest in pop culture and what’s going on right now in the world. Differences would be the forms of media used because the art program at our school is much smaller and less material and medias are used, ” Ms. Jacobs said.
Dr. William Mottolese, Chair of Department of English speaking at the Red Cloud Chapel about his experience at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
Anissa Arakal ’19

An Upper School chapel dedicated to Red Cloud Indian School took place Tuesday, February 28.  A formal exchange of the artwork produced took place between Ms. Jacobs and Ms. Westcott. Upper School students gave reflections on their time on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation this summer. Ms. Ellyn Stewart, Studio Director and Broadcast Journalism Teacher and Dr. William Mottolese, Chair of the Department of English also gave speeches on their experiences with Red Cloud.
“I hope that through Chapel we will be able to start a conversation between different people that should develop slowly over time.  I hope that we begin to develop a relationship and get more people involved with our school,” Ms. Jacobs said.
-Anissa Arakal, Staff Writer