Middle School Art Unit Inspires Activism

Amy Bilden Budzelek

Amy Bilden Budzelek

This year, Whitby's 7th grade visual art have been learning about how artists can prompt change. They have been focusing on Street Art and its ability to highlight issues, change its physical environment, as well as the value of an area.

joe-ficalora-bushwickIn the Spring of 2015 I made a discovery. The discovery was a moment of wonder and excitement as an artist, it was the discovery of Bushwick, Brooklyn. Although Bushwick has always existed, it was my discovery at that moment. A distinction that is important to note as an artist, is that discoveries - no matter how big or small - are yours to own. Bushwick is a Mecca of art, full of colorful artworks rich with variety and perspectives. Not only does this location hold the newness and the excitement of this contemporary movement but it's a living history of past 40 years of street art a walking museum showing the variety and richness of the movement.

From the early years of "Bubble Letters" and "Wild Style" to the more contemporary "Wheat Pastes" and "Installation" pieces, this location ignited a spark. With the start of a new year I wanted my students to also experience the thrill and excitement of discovery to ignite their own inner ideas, for that reason I began my first unit with the 7th grades considering the topic, "Art can prompt change in both personal and cultural circumstance."


As I dug deeper and researched articles and ideas about Bushwick I found with every turn more reasons to be curious and interested and in turn, that was also the case for my students. Art changes lives, art inspires, and art has the potential to highlight what is really important to us as a community and while we followed our excitement we had the thrill of being a part of a movement that is at the forefront of change in the art world.


After visiting the Bushwick Collective, our middle school art students returned to campus full of reflection.

In their English classes, they wrote blogs about what they saw and the new perspective they gained. In Math class, students found more real-life application through studying the economics of the Bushwick neighborhood.

Back in Visual Arts class, students created and installed temporary stencils (using sidewalk chalk paint) sharing a personal stance - varying from Free Speech to Equality. They chose the location of their installation by its high visibility or by connecting the concept well to the space. 

The hope was to raise awareness for what matters to our students as well as prompt a dialog for discussion. Teachers throughout the school were asked to engage them in what they took from the unit as well as how they decided on their topic, to how they created it. The students are informed and excited to participate in a lively exchange of ideas. middle-school-art-students-bushwick-collective
Amy Bilden Budzelek

Amy Bilden Budzelek

Amy Bilden Budzelek is a working artist and Upper School Visual Arts teacher at Whitby School. She is passionate about unlocking a student's potential and getting kids excited about Art. Budzelek presents a variety of ideas in Visual Arts as a catalyst to spark a student's creativity and vision. Art is an avenue that will open doors, give voice, and create controversy and propose questions.