In the bleak, charmless realm of politics, art serves as a vivid instigator of change.
“Art and politics are both deeply personal, getting at the heart of our values and what inspires us,” said studio art and sculpture teacher Alexis Knudsen.
For small-town high school students, the problems of the world often seem far away, but politically-driven art has helped many students use their voice where they are generally unheard. Senior art student Michaela Budde’s work focuses on the Syrian Refugee Crisis.
“It struck me that my peers had never heard of the crisis,” explained Budde. “Just like many global issues it can be hard for it to really get to people.”
Budde’s role as an artist amidst this humanitarian crisis not only helped her fully understand the situation in Syria, but also her role in the matter.
“The research my art required has given me a much more wholesome perspective on who is involved in the crisis and how it got to be so terrible,” said Budde. “To be in such a dire position in a world where there is such privilege and wealth…the disparity between these two worlds is disheartening.”
Budde evokes the fear and vulnerability of those caught within and escaping a war zone, illustrating families amidst the chaos.
Art teacher Jo Sutton explains the role of an educator in times of political turmoil, and how it’s an educator’s job to help students decode what the world is telling them.
“It’s our job as art educators to help give our students the tools to unlock some of the propaganda which may only be subliminal to them at an early age, but as you learn to see the world for what it is and you learn to question every image that comes before you, then propaganda becomes a powerful tool that you as the viewer are in charge of, and you recognize it as such,” Sutton said.
Sutton created a project based on Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” to allow her freshmen to develop their political voice by responding to current situations.
“I encouraged them to come up with their own ‘Scream,’ and visually represent what makes them scream in the world right now,” said Sutton.
Sophomore Kameela Hassan illustrated “The Scream” with the White House in the background as a representation of herself screaming.
“If I have any kids whose families voted Trump or voted conservative, it’s my responsibility to make sure they feel just as safe as every other kid at this school, so I have to walk that line carefully as a teacher,” said Sutton.