The D39 Educational Foundation and District 39 partnered to host visiting Swiss Artist Verena Brassel May 16 – May 25 at WJHS. This initiative provided students with an opportunity to make connections across curriculum and explore different world views. The program was financed by the Foundation through the Lydia Martin Memorial Fund.
The European artist conducted a workshop with 8th graders enrolled in 2-D and 3-D art classes on the theme of Courageous People. Students selected a courageous figure from history including the Dalai Lama, Elie Wiesel, Malala Yousafzai, Rosa Parks and others. Each student created a textural collage showcased at an art exhibit on May 25th and on display at the Wilmette Recreation Center during the summer.
Ms. Brassel’s workshop occurred shortly after the 8th grade social studies unit on genocide. Topics that were discussed during study included individuals’ responsibilities to one another and society, the power bystanders have to move others toward action or passivity, and the choices and risks involved in rescuers’ actions. These topics tied in with each courageous person included in the workshop.
In addition, Ms. Brassel visited German classes at WJHS and Highcrest to introduce students to the Swiss German dialect, Swiss culture and her artwork. Students learned a number of common Swiss phrases.
While the artist has led workshops in Germany and Switzerland, this was her first opportunity to work with American students. Brassel commented:
It is a great honor for me to share the Courageous People Workshop with American students and to make a small contribution to helping young people think and reflect on our history – with its alternately dark and light face. It is challenging to convey history and express personal feelings in a painting, but it is important to tackle these tough subjects to ensure that we never forget.”