Students in Chicago Academy High School’s integrated reading and visual arts class are working together this year to discover the differences and similarities within and among Chicago neighborhoods. During a recent field study trip, art teacher Mr. McKoski and reading teacher Ms. Turk took 30 students on a community investigation of the Argyle/Edgewater neighborhood between Bryn Mawr and Argyle Avenue.
As part of the reading and visual art curriculum, students learn to read both words and visual images in trying to make meaning of the world around them. In order to understand and appreciate the complexity of the Uptown/Edgewater neighborhood, students visited two public murals on Bryn Mawr and Foster Avenue, and investigated Argyle Street by visiting retail stores and eating lunch in a local restaurant. Throughout the day, students collected a variety of “evidence” that would later be used to create a school installation that described the neighborhood. The “evidence” collected included notes, photographs, journal reflections, objects found along the walk, receipts from purchases, menus from restaurants, and food smears from the food they ate! The collection of evidence was based on the work and book Evidence: The Art of Candy Jernigan by Candy Jernigan which students had been studying in class.
Using the same writing and collection techniques completed on the class trip, students returned to their own neighborhood and continued to collect “evidence” that would be used to represent their part of the city. The “evidence” from both trips was used to create two separate collages. Students created a collage for their class trip and a separate collage for their individual trip into their own community. The collages were displayed within the school before report card pickup day, creating a display of words and images that students, teachers, and visitors could read to gain a better understanding of the diversity of Chicago neighborhoods.