‘Paredes Que Hablan’
Students create mural resisting Immigration restrictions
On Wednesday, Feb. 28, Art Resource Collaborative for Kids (ARCK) unveiled “Paredes Que Hablan (Walls that Speak),” a mural that students at Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School in Dorchester and Gardner Pilot Academy in Allston have been painting since October. The artwork was debuted at the Bolling Municipal Building in Roxbury to a crowd estimated at 70 people.
Though the murals currently don’t have a long-term display space, ARCK hopes to find them a permanent home. Demeter encourages community members to get involved in this and future projects by visiting the ARCK website or by e-mailing her directly at email@example.com.
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The Gardner students drew inspiration from the reasons people cross borders, and why it’s important to build bridges across them rather than walls. The Frederick students wanted to express both their own identities and their motto, “Make America Unified Again.”
Project coordinator Bethany Strohm says, “The students are very affected by what’s going on in the world and their voices aren’t always valued. They have a chance to tell their story and to see the community advocating for them.”
The murals are especially timely with the increasing awareness of student voices in the wake of the Parkland school shooting. Sara Mraish Demeter, founder and executive director of ARCK says, “This project brought home to these students a way to tell their stories and to heal.”
At the unveiling of the murals, several students read from the memoirs they wrote about their experiences with immigration and borders. The emotional retellings revealed students who had lost family members or friends to deportation. Boston School Committee member Michael O’Neill tweeted after the event, “I loved these murals, the collaboration between the schools, the student stories and how the two amazing teachers devoted a summer learning to do it right.”
The two teachers who championed the project, Katharine Atkins-Pattenson of Gardner and Alice Laramore of Frederick, traveled to sites along the U.S.-Mexico border through a Fund for Teachers grant. There they learned about Chicano resistance art and how public artworks can help articulate political ideas. They incorporated these lessons into their existing humanities classes and, with the help of ARCK’s teaching artists, helped their students develop a visual voice.
ARCK engages low-income students through art to develop leadership skills, with a particular focus on social justice. Demeter says, “I feel sometimes that we live in silos. This program in particular helps break down barriers. If students are dealing with an issue that’s so urgent, they need an outlet. We are giving them that outlet.”