Engaging community members, students and local organizations: Framework Arts’ Love at Mestizo
631 W. North Temple, Ste. 700, SLC
Monday – Friday 7 a.m.–10 p.m.
Saturday 8 a.m.–9 p.m.
Sunday 8 a.m.–6 p.m.
What does love mean to you? Megan Hallett conducted local partnerships to bring sixth-grade students, their families, teachers, community members and local organizations to co-create Love. Hallett teaches visual art at Escalante Elementary School and runs a nonprofit, Framework Arts, which catalyzed this exhibit. Love depicts students’ evocative and complex expressions of love through love letters, photographs, mixed-media still lifes, a soundtrack and photographed still lifes.
After finding that there are few community partnerships with schools, Hallett created Framework Arts to offer collaborative, multi-media art programs that unite students, families and community organizations to learn about specific art forms and to weave their own stories and perspectives into their artistic expressions. Love mimics the process of last year’s exhibit, Work, in that they both provide an outlet and space for students to explore their own lenses, learn about different mediums, and communicate what these themes mean to them through artistic expression. Last year’s Escalante sixth-graders, who co-created Work, chose the theme and namesake theme of “love” for this year’s students.
“I think that Love will surprise people in how complicated and evocative it is,” Hallett says.
Hallett partnered with Spy Hop’s “Loud and Clear Youth Radio,” a program created by KRCL Community Radio and Spy Hop, to collaborate with the students and families of Escalante. Hallett also joins forces with the Salt Lake City Public Library, who prints out parts of the artworks and will host Love after its initial exhibition at Mestizo Coffeehouse. This year, Hallett has worked closely with Conner Estes, who guides local teens on how to convey their voices and produce “Loud and Clear Youth Radio” on Saturdays, 9–10 p.m. “I thought that it presented an interesting opportunity because KRCL does not usually work with my students’ age group, and I knew that students were not familiar with the work that KRCL does,” she says.
After months of exploring love through different mediums and lenses, the various student- and family-generated artworks coalesce to form Love. “This work is about having a conversation about ‘love’ in as many ways as possible so that the exhibit conveys the fullness of love,” she says. The students probe conceptions of love and then communicate their newfound understanding of love into different art forms. Their work in the classroom then informed the questions about love that Estes’ “Loud and Clear” students created and posed to community members, students’ families and teachers. The “Loud and Clear” students then transformed the audio from these interviews to be Love’s soundtrack.
“The families were asked to explore religious love, familial love, cultural love, self-love, community love and all of those types of questions.”
“The idea is to choose something that you think you understand, and you make it a richer process by figuring out how to define it, then translating that into visual art,” Hallett says. Her 60 students received digital cameras to take home and photograph what love looked like in their everyday lives. “That involves not only figuring out what it looks like but also how to take a beautiful picture,” she says.
Escalante students created mixed-media still lifes using ink, pencil and watercolor, manifesting what love means to them. They also communicated their lenses for love by writing love letters to anyone or anything. This allowed the students to explore what their love for a specific thing or person is and express that in writing, drawing and creating visual art. “There also is a component of the exhibit where community members can write love letters of their own,” Hallett says.
Students’ families were invited to Hallett’s Family Arts Studio, associated with her nonprofit Framework Arts, held at Escalante Elementary. “It allows me to bring families to the school, to facilitate types of work that you normally can’t do independently with students, and to give families the chance to share their stories,” she says. In this case, families brought objects from their homes that express what love is and worked with a local photographer, Ecaterina Leonte, to capture their expressions of love in the form of still lifes. “The families were asked to explore religious love, familial love, cultural love, self-love, community love and all of those types of questions,” she says.
“This work is about having a conversation about ‘love’ in as many ways as possible.”
Overall, the show benefits not only students through their practice of developing art through a central concept but our community at large. “Love presents an opportunity to learn a lesson that we will need over and over again,” Hallett says. “It’s supposed to teach the students and the community that art-making is iterative.” Come and engage with the student-generated art forms that will first be exhibited at Mestizo Coffeehouse beginning on March 2 and installed later at the Salt Lake City Public Library on May 12. “I think that Love will surprise people in how complicated and evocative it is,” Hallett says.