A study of “The Children of the Migrant Caravan” in SHP art teacher Peggy O’Leary’s Studio Art class this fall resulted in an exhibition of student artwork that made a big impact on the SHS community.
Taking the current events of the migrant caravan, students participated in a 10-day intensive study of subjects in photographs carefully selected by O’Leary; they graphed and enlarged the images, then created black and white chalk pastel drawings of the migrants.
“I am always trying to bring in critical issues happening in our country or the world to our projects in the classrooms, so we’re not insular or unaware of the difficulties right outside our door,” said O’Leary.
At the onset of the project, SHP Religious Studies teacher Matt Carroll visited the class to give a history of the migrant caravan crisis.
“The project wouldn’t have been the same without him,” said O’Leary. “He talked about how the caravan came to be, why people are leaving their home countries, why they’re not a threat, and why our school’s mission is to be compassionate—it really helped hone the students’ focus on this issue.”
After Carroll’s talk and viewing footage of the caravan, students felt a stronger connection to the migrants’ emotions.
“By hearing their cries and listening to their objections, it was easy for me to use that emotion and portray it through my artwork,” said Dorreen Darya-Bari (SHP ’21). “I’m glad we had the opportunity to explore it through real images. I’d like to communicate a message of sympathy to the migrants who feel forgotten and hopeless through their struggles.”
The artwork was finished in time to be featured in an art exhibition during the annual SHP Holiday Treat event. Viewers said the impact of the exhibit was profound. “It was very impactful to the students to see that their work had reached members in our community,” said O’Leary.
One student said the migrant project helped her make connections between the art world at large, and her personal experiences in the class.
“I have learned how art can be used to [advance a] worldwide message, or display the natural beauty around us,” said Kathryn Sweeney (SHP ’21). “I think it’s incredible that art can be used as a universal language that has the potential to touch people across the globe.”
Armed with a new sense of the power of art, students are left with “a new understanding of their own personal ability to communicate compassion,” O’Leary said. “The project really is in solidarity with what our school stands for—it always comes back to ‘what would Jesus do?’—it’s as simple as that.”