Each year, P.S. ARTS teaching artists and staff gather together to create a unifying theme to provide a framework for the coming school year’s curriculum. This school year will be unlike any other and we’ve chosen a theme that speaks to the growing need for community and connection in the face of social distancing. We are thrilled to announce the 2020-21 school year theme is Weaving the Threads, Connecting Our Stories.
In this time of distance learning, while we are physically disconnected, we are finding innovative ways to connect and foster community through art and art-making. Last year, we explored the importance of providing students with both windows and mirrors: opportunities to see themselves reflected in the canon of works shared, and chances to learn more about other communities, cultures, and artists. This year, we are building on that theme by weaving together individual and community stories– developing and maintaining the integrity and agency over our own stories and using them to find a connection to others. With this in mind, P.S. ARTS faculty and staff are excited to announce the following artists and their masterworks for this year:
Lazarus by Rennie Harris and performed by the Alvin Ailey Dancers
Lazarus is a group dance choreographed by Hip-Hop choreographer Rennie Harris. The dance company describes it as a means that “connects past and present in a powerful work that addresses the racial inequities America faced when Mr. Ailey founded this company in 1958 and still faces today.” In 2020, an iteration of Lazarus was created during the COVID-19 pandemic as a way for artists to perform together while physically apart. Lazarus acts as a unifier and uses technology to connect dancers to each other and the world.
“Ailey Dancers Perform an Excerpt from ‘Lazarus’ Together While Apart.” Performed by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, YouTube, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, 27 March 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7SlH2dLm8Y.
Lean on Me by Bill Withers and performed by Playing for Change
“Lean on Me,” written and originally performed by the late great Bill Withers, is one of the most covered songs in history. Withers was living in Los Angeles and missing the connections and simplicity of his small hometown life when he wrote this tune. Covered by world famous artists, this song has become an anthem for connection and support. In recent months, videos have been shared of neighbors in isolation singing this song from their open windows to create a chorus. The version selected was recorded by Playing For Change, which describes itself as “a movement created to inspire and connect the world through music, born from the shared belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people.”
“Lean on Me (Bill Withers), Playing for Change, Song Around the World.” Performance by Playing for Change, YouTube, 19 Jan. 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LiouJsnYytI&list=PLY0AMlAadLfpeybM6Hk7ZBk0FFrwqSRqo&index=5&t=0s&app=desktop.
I Am a Story by Dan Yaccarino
What is the story of a story? In this beautifully illustrated book, I Am a Story looks at the history of storytelling and its enduring power. Yaccarino touches on methods of storytelling throughout history from memorized campfire stories, hieroglyphs, theatre performance, and tapestries to the printed books we know and love today. It also explores the concepts of access to stories, censorship, and the types of stories being told. Stories have always enabled people to connect to each other and learn, and we feel this book builds on that sense of shared community.
Yaccarino, Dan. “I Am a Story.” Harper Collins Publishers, https://www.harpercollins.com/products/i-am-a-story-dan-yaccarino
Guardian Angel by Gajin Fujita
The East meets the West in Guardian Angel by Los Angeles based artist Gajin Fujita. This artwork combines traditional Japanese woodblock print elements and contemporary Los Angeles Latinx graffiti imagery. Like many of Gajin Fujita’s artworks, in Guardian Angel we find traces of Japanese symbols and art history set within a Los Angeles landscape. Fujita’s work embodies stories of ethnic, cultural, and class contradictions in a way that is stunning yet harmonious. This design was even featured on a limited edition Los Angeles Public Library library card.
LA Louver, 2017. Dark Progressivism. https://lalouver.com/exhibition.cfm?tExhibition_id=1674.
Fujita, Gajin. Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/gajinfujita.la/.