Sam Norris opted for simplicity to convey a powerful message.
Norris, an eighth-grader at Sky Vista Middle School, is one of several student artists who took part in a donation gallery/charity show at the school on March 15. He's more comfortable crafting a piece out of words than ink and paint, but that didn't stop the aspiring slam poet from creating a drawing for the event, a simple, black-and-white image titled "Be the Difference" that portrays a single figure standing out from a crowd to stop a fight.
The components of the piece are simple – Norris opted to portray his subjects in stark, stick-figure form – but the theme is complex and contemporary. Norris wanted to stress the fact that individuals can make significant differences.
"One person is emerging to stop the bullying. I see this every day at school," Norris said. "I wanted to get the message across. Anybody can say that bullying is bad, but I wanted to create something that people can see."
Norris wasn't alone in his efforts. His peers from Dr. Meredith Collins' AID/Language Arts class contributed drawings, painting and photographs to the show, and all carried a similar theme. Artwork with simple titles like "Behind the Brick Wall," "Rain Isn't An Excuse," "Nature's Resister," "Behind the Obvious" and "Pause … Rewind" spoke to the power of individual action. Student artists Anjonae Benton, Sarah Wraalstad, Emily Munch, Rachel Pereza, Kristina Sergoyan, Trinity Egger and others came together to spread a similar message rooted in conscientiousness, kindness and individual impact.
"What this art show has done is that it's helped all of us truly express ourselves through art," Emily Munch said. "You don't always get to take a part of you and put it on display like this unless you're in an art class. This is a real way for all of us to put what we feel into not just words, but images. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. All of us have worked to put our feelings into more than just words."
The artwork, which came along with specific language lessons tied to concepts of bullying, dehumanization and the role of active supporters to effect change, will have an impact beyond the walls of Sky Vista. The students raised more than $1,300 during the show on March 15, and the money will go toward the nonprofit Concern Worldwide, a humanitarian organization dedicated to ending poverty in sites across the world.
In preparing for the show, the students researched communities across the globe affected by poverty and lack of resources. In writing their essays and poems and preparing their drawings and paintings, the students had a vast worldview in mind.
"This artwork is going to mean something to somebody," Rachel Pereza said. "That means a lot."