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Middle School Reach Beyond Week Takeaways: Art, Identity, & Social Change

Mary Hammers
If what matters to you is art, then a deep dive into the local art scene and an exploration of artistic expression during Reach Beyond Week provided a week of inspiration and personal growth. Students who participated in the Art Identity exploration spent the week considering how personal identity informs what artists make, how art can help shape a community, and its ability to touch people in both subtle and significant ways.

The week was full of first-person as well as macro-experiences in the arts. Students visited the downtown studios of two San Jose-based artists, sculptor Ken Matsumoto and visual artist Tony May. These visits gave students an intimate look at how professional artists work, their creative process, and what inspire them. Students were able to ask Matsumoto and May questions about themselves and their work, and get to know them as people as well as artists. They got to explore the question of identity in art and view it through the lens of each artist. Elise (‘19) says, “I was very inspired. It made me really think about how and why the artist created what they did.” Henry (‘19) added,”It showed me the simplicity and the deeper meaning behind every stroke of paint.”

In addition, students visited three local museums and with the help of museum educators, looked at the message and social impact of artists at the Cantor Museum at Stanford, San Jose Museum of Art and the de Saisett Museum at Santa Clara University. Johanna (‘19) describes her takeaway, “Art changes the rules, art has no rules, society is based on rules.”

Over the course of the week, as they learned about various artists and their work, students considered aspects that define them and make their experiences of the world unique. This understanding helped them to see the relationship between who an individual is or how they see themselves and the art that individual creates. Art teacher Laura Hale says as student’s perspectives on art and art-making became more nuanced, so too, did their self-awareness, “Ultimately reaching beyond oneself takes an understanding of self and community and there is no question that our students grew to more deeply understand both.”