For the third year in a row, the Eliot School of Fine and Applied Arts will receive a $20,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).
The grant will help fund the school’s Artist in Residence project, which allows professional artists to work with youth in the Boston area as part of the school’s Teen Bridge program. The Gazette spoke with the Eliot School’s Associate Director Alison Croney Moses to learn more about the grant and how it will be used.
Croney Moses said of receiving the grant that it is “very nice to be acknowledged in this way. I think it means that we are doing something that’s worthwhile.”
The 2022 project involves Boston artists GoFive and TakeOne, who will work with local teens on creating murals at English High School. The theme is “Spaces of Belonging,” Croney Moses said, adding that she feels this theme is “relevant” as people still deal with the effects of isolation from the pandemic.
The project will also seek feedback from English High students, parents, administrators, and teachers, as well as the larger Jamaica Plain community as a whole. She said that the “hardest task” will be figuring out how to “engage authentically with the community.”
Croney Moses said that GoFive and TakeOne “have been really engaged with different communities in Boston and youth,” and Eliot School is “excited” to have them on board as part of this project.
She said that this spring, the artists will hold workshops with Teen Bridge participants to come up with some different ideas and “spend some time building that trust and that community.”
In July, there will be an “intensive period of planning and art making,” in which final designs will be presented to the Boston Arts Commission for approval, and once approved, the mural will be installed at the school, though the exact location is to be determined.
“What’s really exciting about this project,” Croney Moses said, is that “there’s a lot we don’t know because it comes from the people who participate in it.”
Eliot School has also partnered with Open Door Arts, an affiliate of Seven Hill Foundation, as well as Wheelock Family Theater at Boston University. Funding in the form of a $30,000 Grants for Arts Project grant was also awarded to this group for training for art teachers.
This funding will allow for the continuation of a professional development program for art teachers called SPAC (Supporting the Processing of Experience through the Arts during Crises).
Following the “racial awakening and racial reckoning” in the summer of 2020, Croney Moses said that people were “recognizing teachers were going back into the classroom with a lot of uncertainty and a lot of wanting to acknowledge the culturally rich student body that they teach.”
She said that a pilot of the professional development series was offered this past fall to help teachers be able to offer more support to their students.
The professional development series included five sessions and five themes, Croney Moses said, which include:
1. The history of education through the lens of race
2. The history of education through the lens of disability
3. The social and emotional needs of students and how they can be supported
4. Colonizing curriculum and how to “question past ways we’ve taught certain things:”
5. “How do we put that into practice over Zoom and make it engaging?
Croney Moses said that the program was “open to all teaching artists, not just visual artists,” and “allowed folks to think about theatrical ways to engage.”
With this new round of funding, “it’s really exciting—we can expand,” she said. She said that the hope is to offer professional development sessions this summer.
She said she feels that “the desire is still there” for this type of program, and “it’s really exciting to have funders that support the work.”
Additionally, she said she is grateful for the funding for the mural project as well.
The teens participating in the Teen Bridge program receive stipends for their participation and collaboration. “It’s amazing to see them take ownership,” she said.
“To me, it’s a really big deal,” she said of getting the funding, as well as “recognizing the hard work of our youth, our artists, and acknowledging that it’s something that’s relevant.”
For more information about the Eliot School’s Teen Bridge and Artist in Residence programs, visit eliotschool.org.