Can bridging technology, public art, and basketball bring neighbors together? The students at Shalom High School believe it can…
Last month, I visited AIR programming at Shalom High School to see their Community Courtship project in action- it was one of their first meetings. Students and artists Wes Tank and David Najib Kasir are working together to design and paint a basketball court in their neighborhood. Students hope that this project will bring members of their neighborhood and school community together. They also plan to document the entire process themselves, with students learning valuable videography and editing skills throughout the project.
The classroom was buzzing with activity. Wes was guiding a group of students through videotaping pre-project interviews. Students interviewed each other, asking questions like “How long have you been interested in art?,” “Have you done art before?,” “Why were you interested in this project?,” “Do you like/play basketball?”
Other students were working on their designs for the basketball court (see designs below). I sat down with Nijah and Destiny, both had already completed a couple of designs and were comparing them to each other. Neither had said that they had a lot of experience with art, but both said they were excited about painting a basketball court together. I asked them what they hoped would come of this project. Destiny said she hoped that the basketball court mural would bring people together, and “draw people’s attention in a good way.”
At the end of the session, Wes and David brought everyone together to debrief on the day. Students were offered the opportunity to share what about this project made them feel excited. They expressed feelings of excitement around learning new skills, having the opportunity to make art, and for having a platform to express themselves and make a difference in their community: James said, “We got a lot of stuff to say that’s good for the community, but we don’t always get a chance to say it.” Zaveonte said they were excited about this project because they “got to express ourselves outside of school and with ourselves.”
Students are now a couple weeks into their project. Lead artist, Wes Tank talks about their progress and what he’s looking forward to:
“the students are learning what their artistic strengths and interests are as we experiment with basketball dribbling as a painting technique, weaving colorful nets, drafting court designs, and filming our process along the way. We look forward to applying our experimentation to the actual courts when the snow melts. It’s exciting to watch them get focused and surprise themselves with what they can do. I’m really looking forward to traveling around and hanging the nets that we are making in class on hoops in the surrounding neighborhoods. I also can’t wait to see many kids simultaneously dribbling basketbal
ls covered in paint. I hope that happens at least once…going to need a lot of coveralls.
Also, the first time we play ball on a court we have rehabilitated is going to be super special”
Story written by Anne Marie Battista.