Discovering the Power of Story: Santa Fe High School

The nine El Otro Lado classes across Santa Fe are preparing for the Festival of Learning on April 22. From masks, quilts, sculptures, poetry, songs and claymation, students, teachers and teaching artists have found creative ways to share their individual and collective stories. Here we offer a glimpse into the upcoming De Dónde Somos exhibition as part of the Festival of Learning through the words of an El Otro Lado Teaching Artist:

It’s 8:50 on Wednesday morning at Santa Fe High, and our ESL students are slowly settling in to their first period for the day. Today’s El Otro Lado learning experience is Animal Guide Self Portraits. We begin with a slide show of famous self-portraits, including Van Gogh, Dali, and Kahlo, which is followed by a brief demonstration on watercolor painting. We spend some time journaling in response to the prompt, “envision an animal that will guide you on your journey through this life.” We then move on to the difficult task of studying ourselves in the mirror. Finally, it is time to begin our creations. For the remainder of class, we creatively combine materials to make our perfectly unique portraits. Our animal guides range from bunny rabbits to sharks. To conclude class, we share our portraits and discuss our upcoming field trip to SITE Santa Fe, a contemporary art museum.

Our Animal Guide Self Portrait class was the perfect precursor to our SITE Santa Fe visit. While at SITE, in addition to a tour of the museum, we participated in a sewing project inspired by the work of artist Naomi Watt. “Watt uses reclaimed wool to make colorful wall textiles and massive sculptural blanket stacks that present the viewer with the enormities of memory and history.” Her work beautifully interlaces the themes of the El Otro Lado program, so naturally our students related. Reflecting on our self-portrait project, we each sewed our animal guides onto squares cut from a donated blanket. This time, the entire animal in its own right, without including ourselves. Our blanket squares will be combined into a large textile, which will include the embroidery projects of other El Otro Lado participants. Our collective blanket will be on display at our culminating event on April 22, which will take place at SITE, the very place the piece was inspired and created.

Molly Wagoner
Teaching Artist