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‘Resilient Current’

Josiah Quincy Elementary students make art and build community

By Celina Colby
‘Resilient Current’
Students at the Josiah Quincy Elementary School created the artwork, “Resilient Current” working with artist Salvador Jimenez-Flores. (Photo: Photo: Celina Colby)

One year ago, artist Salvador Jimenez-Flores met with the fifth grade class of Boston’s Josiah Quincy Elementary School to talk about art and identity. After months of workshops and collaboration, the artist and the students have produced “Resilient Current,” a bold triptych reflecting their experience in the ever-gentrifying Chinatown neighborhood. The piece is on view through Oct. 21 at the Pao Arts Center in Chinatown’s One Greenway building, with an accompanying video showing the creation process.

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“Resilient Current” features a large fan made with strips of relief prints against a bold yellow-and-red printed backdrop. The Chinese characters for “fan” and “kindness” share the same sound [Shàn], and Jimenez-Flores wanted the project to convey a positive message of kindness and generosity. The fan features more than 130 original relief prints made by the students. The text “Everyone is welcome here” is repeated on the fan in multiple languages.

“The whole premise was to create a sense of belonging for the students, who are all from different backgrounds,” says Jimenez-Flores. Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood, where the elementary school is located, has been experiencing rapid gentrification, forcing many lower-income families out.

The process was as important as the end product, according to the artist. His collaboration with the students emphasized creative problem-solving and self-expression as much as artmaking. “Usually art is the first thing they remove from schools,” he says. “A lot of people don’t understand the importance of creativity.”

Jimenez-Flores says that his role was that of a facilitator, guiding the students and helping them focus their ideas. He says everything about the triptych was a collaboration. The public, too will have the opportunity to get creative, as the artist will host a drop-in printmaking workshop at the Pao Arts Center on Saturday, Oct. 21 at 3 p.m.

Jimenez-Flores was born and raised in Jalisco, Mexico and studied Graphic Design at Chicago’s Robert Morris University before earning his M.F.A. at Kendall College of Art and Design. He considers himself a nomadic artist emphasizing cross-cultural identities and community art projects. His work with Boston communities will continue with an October venture at Urbano Project.

For the students of Josiah Quincy Elementary, the project wasn’t just about creating artwork. The artist’s intention wasn’t to groom the next generation of Frida Kahlos, he says, but to open the students’ eyes to new ways of thinking and to help them feel welcome in a changing neighborhood and an uncertain time.

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