Creating Communities explores impact of art in Atlanta

Westminster’s Creating Communities program has, for 3 years now, provided an opportunity for students to expand their knowledge of art in public spaces in our own community, and in others across the country. The program – lead by teachers Ben Steele, Pamela Martinez, and Sabrina Johnson – helps members with monthly projects that deal with art in public settings, understanding the impact of art in a community, and how art unites people.

The club’s most recent project pushed kids to channel their creative side and become a part of something big in our city.

“We don’t typically make things, it’s more of an experience”, said Martinez, who is also an Upper School art teacher.

The September project was to create a lantern and walk in the lantern parade on the Belt Line, which consisted of upwards of 60,000 members walking around 2 miles with their hand made lanterns. The Westminster group even had the opportunity to walk right behind the parade’s live jazz band.

Creating Communities strives to encompass the universal aspect of art that members are able to get a first hand feel for by being out in the community. Junior Caterina Prestia explains how the lantern festival accomplished this goal

“It was cool to see people from all over Atlanta come together to celebrate something so universal as lanterns”, Prestia said.

Junior Sarah Lawrence McGill explains that this community-oriented aspect of creating communities initially attracted her to join this program.

“Mr. Steele talked about the different parts of Atlanta that we would explore, especially places that concentrated near the belt line,” said McGill, “It was something I had been wanting to do for a while, so Creating Communities seemed like a perfect opportunity for me.”

This December the group will travel to Miami Beach, Florida to explore the art culture participate in the Art Basel. The Art Basel showcases all types of media and attracts crowds from all over the country and the world. There is a large community in Atlanta going to this event, adding another reason why Miami is so accessible and a great place to take members. Not only is the event proximal to Atlanta, but it will help the members of Creating Communities better understand the positive impact art can have on a community.

“It’s a fascinating time to see how creativity and art in general can transform a space and impact the local culture in an ongoing way,” Steele said.

The program traveled to New York last year, but this year’s trip will be more akin to the programs experience in New Orleans in 2014. Steele looks forward to the uniqueness of the Art Basel showcase.

“In New York we could go any time of the year and see the same things that we saw when we went before because the art there will always be there, but in Miami and New Orleans it is a set up event that only happens once a year”, said Steele.

Creating Communities’ trips differ from year to year, but the focus on exposing students to different forms of art remains the same. Many of the students who participate understand historical art, so Creating Communities often explores modern art.

“The trip is an exciting intro to students who may only know about art in a historical and traditional sense and understand the connection between art and pop culture,” said Steel.

This allows the members to get a first hand feel for how the art world is changing as we get older and the versatility of art. Creating Communities allows students to meet prominent names in the art world in Atlanta and make connections that they will be able to utilize for life. Exposing students at such a young age to art, something so prominent in our community and the rest of the world, opens many doors to their lives in the future. Not only does it allow students to become more well rounded and worldly, it helps teenagers see and understand beauty in a much deeper way. Martinez explains that this knowledge and perspective is what Creating Communities is truly about.

“We don’t always make things, but it’s more of an experience,” said Martinez.