Colonial Elementary School (CES) teachers James Brooks and Erin McMahon visited the Barnes Foundation Museum in Philadelphia to see the exhibit “30 Americans” — and bring back a project for Black History Month.
The exhibit featured the work of 30 contemporary African American artists. The two teachers felt inspired by the “Soundsuits” created by the sculptor and performance artist Nick Cave. Soundsuits hide a person’s race, gender and class, allowing the viewer to look at a person’s identity without bias.
The pair created a school wide project where students and teachers designed “Soundsuits” based on their interests.
“My favorite thing about making the Soundsuit was thinking really deep about what I love and not thinking about how I look,” said CES Fourth Grader Addy Laverick.
Most of the CES Soundsuits started with a pair of feet, but, beyond that, the students could use their artistic freedom to create the rest. Some students drew items on their suit; others cut and pasted images from magazines into a collage. Each class displayed their Soundsuits outside of their classrooms, and the students enjoyed trying to figure out who was who — and learning more about their peers.
“I think it’s important, because it teaches us that it’s not about the outside. It’s more about what’s inside,” said CES Fourth Grader Avery Crump. “It also can help the person that’s making it not to worry about what other people think about them.”
While the project originally aimed to introduce the students to African American artists, the Soundsuit also tied into the school’s climate efforts that focus on kindness and acceptance.
“It shows how everybody’s different, and it doesn’t matter about what you look like. It’s about how you act and if you’re kind or not,” said CES Fourth Grader Mia McCracken. “It tells you a lot about who people are.”