“Inspiration—It walks in your classroom everyday if you are paying attention, and other days it slaps you in the face. Yesterday was one of those days,” said Shana Chandler, advanced art teacher at Silverton Middle School.
After returning to school from winter break, students in Chandler’s class were given a unique assignment: to research someone who gives them inspiration and create an original piece that reflects that person’s style and influence. The students chose a wide variety of subjects, ranging from visual artists to poets and musicians.
These aspiring young artists proudly shared their finished projects at the school’s annual Lunch and Learn Art Show. Families, peers, teachers, and local artist Ann Altman gathered to admire and learn about the impressive student artwork.
The event quickly blossomed into a whirlwind of excitement and passion when 8th grader Sam Perez was surprised with a visit from American Poet Chinaka Hodge, the woman whom he chose to focus on for his project.
Prior to the Lunch and Learn Art Show, Perez had posted a picture of his pen and oil pastel portrait, which portrayed her surrounded by phrases from her books and poems. He tagged her in the post and she responded with a simple “Thank you!”
He then invited her to the Lunch and Learn Show, but didn’t hear back… Not because she wasn’t interested, but because she wanted her visit to be a surprise for Perez. Hodge contacted the school and flew all the way from Los Angeles to attend the event.
“I didn’t know she was coming. I didn’t expect it,” said Perez. “It’s really inspiring that she came here.” Perez added that he expects to continue doing art and that Hodges’ visit made a big impression on him. In a reflection after the event, Perez wrote, “I learned from Chinaka to ask for what you want in life instead of staying low.”
And to make the day even more special, a series of events unfolded where another student, Elliot Reed, was able to share his artwork with rap artist, Childish Gambino via video. Gambino just happened to be a close friend of Hodges so she captured Elliot’s artwork to share with him.
“Gambino and this experience inspired my first song, “Rebel” said Elliot. “You can listen on my Instagram, @reed.ell.”
“People just don’t get on planes to connect,” said Chandler. “Chinaka’s visit was incredibly powerful, not just to our classroom, but she visited other classrooms as well, sharing live, free-form poetry.”
SFSD Superintendent Andy Bellando also attended the Lunch and Learn Art Show.
“It was an amazing event,” said Bellando. “Seeing our students showcase their talent and meet their role models was a great way to kick off the New Year.”