Monday, May 23, 2011

2011: Walkin' The Tightrope - Liv Chaffee

Photo: Sara Skolnick of Time Out Boston Magazine

Walkin' The Tightrope
Article for this blog by Liv Chaffee

Five of her students:

Deandre Dewhollis
Jose Pena
Kyshuari Santana-Everet
Rayuana Martin-Milton
Xavier Barrientos

participated in The 2011 Mobius Wearable Art Runway Show

‘Walkin’ The Tightrope’ is a Visual Art program that explores the connection between the art of sneaker design and the power self-expression with third, fourth, and fifth graders.

Students began this journey by creating detailed studies of real sneakers from observation. During this more in depth look at a seemingly ordinary object, great discussion was generated about the ART of sneaker design; opening students’ eyes to design not only as a form of creative expression, but as a marketable career path that they may have never realized existed.

This year I orchestrated ‘Walkin’ The Tightrope’ at the John Marshall Elementary School with my 2nd-5th grade students. One hundred and ten pairs of sneakers were donated by Converse for our young aspiring artists to make their own. Their design had to be autobiographical. It was required to tell the viewer something about the artist through the use of color, imagery, written language, symbolism, or pattern. As a way to gain a better understanding for one another as well as our community, a written component was included as a part of each final product. Each student answered two questions:

If you walked a mile in my shoes you would know…
To continue taking steps in the right direction I promise to…

We then debuted their final sneakers, as well as their initial drawings, paintings, and written pieces at a local Boston venue. The sneakers were set up in the space as part of a large-scale installation as if they are strung from telephone pole electrical wires. In local neighborhoods, shoes hung from wires typically have negative connotations attached. Some are used to mark gang territory, to signify where drugs are sold, or to commemorate someone lost to violence. One goal of ‘Walkin’ The Tightrope’ is to transform these assumptions from negative to positive. The function of the exhibit was to recognize and celebrate student work and to connect the school with the greater community.

These sneakers became a catalyst for imagination, self-expression, ambition, and hard work in my classroom:

“If you walked a mile in my shoes you would know that I have speed and talent. You will know that because you will see the flames that come out of the bottom of my shoes. To continue taking steps in the right direction I promise to act like a scholar.” –Omari, 3rd Grader

“If you walked a mile in my shoes you would know that I want to be an architect and a designer. To continue taking steps in the right direction I promise to make shoes that YOU will want to wear everyday.” –Daniel, 3rd Grader

In addition to Converse, we were honored to have the support of Nike’s Jordan Brand lead Designer D’Wayne Edwards, who read about us in the Boston Globe and decided to come from Oregon to visit my students at the Marshall. He inspired the children and shared insights on his artistic journey and career at one of the most prominent footwear companies in the world:

“If, you walked a mile in my shoes you would know I am a product of the inner city and ART saved my life. Without being exposed to art at such a young age I would not have fulfilled my dream of becoming a professional Footwear Designer. To continue taking steps in the right direction I promise to share the gift I was blessed with to as many young aspiring designers so they to get a chance to walk in shoes they designed.”-D’Wayne Edwards

We also had the support of local publications and business owners such as The Boston Globe, Stuff @ Night Magazine, Time Out Boston, The Good Life, The Tannery, and The community support played a major role in making this program a success and it had an amazing impact on my students as well as their parents. We are currently partnering with to create a ‘Walkin’ The Tightrope’ t-shirt designed by my students to be sold on worldwide- all proceeds going to the John Marshall Art Department.

Please feel free to learn more about our Walkin' The Tightrope journey at our website and follow the progress on our current Walkin' The Tightrope T-shirt design contest!

Photos: Sara Skolnick of Time Out Boston Magazine:

Photos: Liv Chaffee