Six graders from Bronx Community Charter School (BCCS) are taking on a year-end street art project, creating stencil art to be displayed around Norwood. They feel their artworks will have a powerful impact on the community.
“I think any time kids have an opportunity to do something authentic and real in their own community, the benefits are huge,” said Kendra Sibley, sixth grade teacher at BCCS leading the class. “It is incredibly empowering to them to know that their work is appreciated and that their voices can be heard.”
Along with providing inspiration, students felt that their messages were not only important to the community, but also conveyed personal struggles their families are experiencing. Some of these personal stencils included messages on the pre-school-to-prison pipeline, feminism, immigration and equality.
“Many of the political messages were chosen because the students have really strong feelings about what they see happening politically in our country right now,” Sibley said. “They are afraid of how policies will affect their families, and they see injustice in the way people are being singled out and vilified.”
Amaya Morales-Robinson, a student, was among those who created a personal stencil on feminism. “I’m a girl and I’m a feminist, and my stencil says ‘Feminists Slay.’
The school began this community art project after they were connected with artist and Bronx native Justin Jung.
“People use many different mediums for their artwork and their messages,” Jung said. “You can make a lot of creative stuff like that.”
Sibley connected with Jung, studying his style, which led kids to ask questions about he began and what he hoped got out of his work.”
“We all looked at images of his art and he talked about how he got into street art and said that he liked putting his work out there for a big audience of people,” Sibley said.
Jung has visited the school several times to talk about his work and the impact of stenciling, while offering the students a space to present their stencils.
“He likes interacting with the community that way,” Sibley said of Jung. “He was very encouraging and the kids really enjoyed hanging with him while they put their work on the wall.”
The students’ original stencils were created to make residents think or laugh and to display a positive message within the community. Their work can be seen near the East 205th Street/Norwood station at the D subway line in front of the Mosholu Library near a mural on East 204th Street and Perry Avenue.
“We’re activists!,” the students shouted.