Thursday, January 12, 2017

Unsung Heroes

I heard about the Unsung Heroes art competition from a former colleague (featured in the video above) and thought it sounded like an awesome project. I decided to use "Heroes" as the first themed project for my high school graphic design class. Some students have taken the class 4 times and it's a first for others. The students could choose any medium to communicate their idea.
We started with a discussion of what a hero is and watched the videos from the Lowell Milken Center. Next, I asked students to brainstorm and research to choose a hero. They could choose a hero from the LMC website that would be pre-approved for entering the contest, they could find their own unsung hero from history and seek approval for entering the contest, or they could just focus on a hero without the contest. I had a few students email to ask about a relative who had served in the military being their unsung hero only to be disappointed when they found out their person didn't meet all the criteria. I encouraged them to go with their choice anyway since I wanted the project to be meaningful to them and the contest part was just extra.
The students who chose personal heroes seemed more engaged in their projects overall than those who chose from the Unsung Heroes list, so I'm glad that I didn't limit them to participating in the contest. The contest is an amazing opportunity with a great message and the largest monetary prize packages I've ever seen in a middle and high school art contest so don't let that deter you! It seemed that most of the students who chose from the Unsung Heroes list did so randomly just to meet the requirement where the students who did their own research or chose a family member did it because they cared.
Will I reuse this theme in the future? Possibly, but I will probably not do it as the first theme for a class, or would instead offer it to my advanced students. The project does not have to be a portrait, but it is helpful, and many students were intimidated. I decided to let some trace the contours of a portrait of their unsung hero with the agreement that they would add more to it, and I wish I wouldn't have. There's not necessarily a problem with tracing- lots of contemporary artists do it instead of a grid method and it's not that different from Renaissance artists supposedly using a camera obscura- but I typically don't let students do it unless it is a photo that they took. Tracing has now been a hard habit to break for those students. Some saw tracing as the default and totally forgot about drawing but I think we're back on track now.
For my unsung heroes project I used my grandpa. He fought in Vietnam and saved many men. He disobeyed his orders and flew into a hot zone and rescued a bunch of men. He deserves recognition because he is a very humble and amazing person. I used pencils, colored pencils, and sharpies to create my artwork. I drew a chinook to show that’s what he flew to rescue the men, I then drew a picture of him in uniform, an American flag because ‘Merica, the 82nd and 101st airborne symbols because that was what he was in, and lastly I drew his dog tags. My grandpa is one amazing, humbled, loving, and caring man you will ever meet. For these reasons is why I used my grandpa for this unsung heroes project.
Today many women participate in the Boston Marathon, in but 1967 that wasn’t the case. Over history, there are people who stand out and make a courageous move to be the first one to do something. Kathrine Switzer was the first women to run the Boston Marathon. I chose Kathrine Switzer for my unsung heroes project because she is a light illuminating in the darkness. She shows society that just because you are a woman, that doesn’t mean that you can’t do things that men are doing, such as running a marathon. Also she is a great example in what it means to have determination and drive. During the race, officials tried to pull her out of the race but she wouldn’t give up. I was interested in Kathrine Switzer’s story and I could relate to it well because I’m a runner. Whenever you have passion and interest in what you are doing, it just makes your work all the more better. Kathrine Switzer is a hero to me because she was unique and original. She didn’t go where the path led, but instead she went where there was no path and left a trail. The whole story about how she started running and then realized that she could be capable of running a marathon is inspiring. It reminds everyone that knows her story, that the most dangerous place is in your comfort zone. Kathrine Switzer definitely deserves recognition for her amazing accomplishment of being the first woman ever to run the Boston Marathon.

When you think of heroes on 9/11, who do you think of? Firefighters? Policemen? First responders? What if I told you that one of the men who saved the most lives on 9/11 was none of those things. My graphite drawing represents Benjamin Clark. Clark was a chef on the 96th floor of the South World Trade Center Tower. He started his day as he always did on that tragic September day. But when the events unraveled, Clark went into action saving all the people on his floor, saving over hundreds of lives as he worked his way down the tower. Clark died when he stopped to assist a woman stuck in a wheelchair. Clark could have made it out alive along with the men and women that he saved. That would have been courageous enough but instead he stayed to assist someone who would have died without a chance. That is why he is a hero. I chose to do a graphite drawing to show Clark’s story. I drew a portrait of him in the foreground and the burning twin towers with the smoke spelling out “Clark.”

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