Seattle Academy Student Advocacy Shown Through Art
This past July, a group of current and former Seattle Academy students and Arts Faculty members Annalise Olson '09, Tom Flood, and Lily Hotchkiss came together with the goal of centering BIPOC voices through a student-led mural project.
Seattle Academy’s campus is located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood and remains a living gallery, in a city where the effects of the global pandemic, social justice, and racial equity issues are visible. As the Vanderbilt Building on campus is currently being renovated the group noticed the opportunity to highlight their advocacy through their collective art. The project began with reflection and discussion through an anti-racist lens via a series of Zoom “meet-ups.” Students connected with two BIPOC mural artists Angelina Villalobos and Brandon Thomas/BT to share their ideas, discuss intersectionality, and explore unfamiliar viewpoints incompatible with the value that together they “be equity designers of an anti-racism classroom.” After feedback on their designs students set up in the outdoor garage on campus with PPE, lots of tarps, and got to work.
“For me, the most important part of the piece was trying to make people feel safe and seen... I wanted to create a mural that was vibrant and clear in its support of Black Lives Matter, Pride, and the cause of equality for other minority groups.” – Lucy Waggoner ’20 (@SAASGrad) pic.twitter.com/2phwr8kwD7— Seattle Academy (@SeattleAcademy) August 6, 2020
Recent graduate, Lucy Waggoner ‘20 wanted to create something that boldly says to strangers and students and everyone in between that at SAAS and in Capitol Hill and on this corner of Seattle: you are supported. Things are far from perfect, but Lucy believes we can move towards something better.
“For me, the most important part of the piece was trying to make people feel safe and seen. I walked by SAAS countless times during protests or while they were ongoing just a couple blocks over, and I wanted the face of our school to be more than another set of plywood. When I see something as simple as a Pride flag hanging from a fence, it makes me feel more comfortable in a neighborhood. It’s not enough, but I wanted to create a mural that was vibrant and clear in its support of Black Lives Matter, Pride, and the cause of equality for other minority groups. In particular, the intersection between BLM and Pride felt especially important as protests for racial justice played out in Pride Month and more people called for attention to the lives and killings of Black trans people.”- Lucy Waggoner ‘20.
“The flag of the United States of America is a symbol of liberty and democracy yet the system is failing. I intended my mural to be abstract and invite people to think about it.” – Ethan Lin ’22 who recently participated in the Mural Art Project currently on display on campus. pic.twitter.com/58p3MZ0BWt— Seattle Academy (@SeattleAcademy) August 5, 2020
Ethan Lin ‘22 visualized his idea, using an American flag and chain links. “I simplified the picture by only using three colors. The image was projected onto the wooden boards and traced over with a pencil. I loaded my brush with red paint and put it on the bottom of the flag to create the illusion of the flag bleeding. To be eye-catching, I created lots of negative space, used minimal colors, and created sharp and accurate edges using stencils. I did not use words because that would influence the interpretations. Instead, I wanted people to interpret it based on the visuals.”- Ethan.
“BLM all day every day. This is not a social trend; it is an ongoing conversation that will not stop until there is change and will be remembered for years to come. Be remembered in history books for the change you made, not the change you watched.”- Samantha Black ’21 & Aminta Malcolm ‘21 pic.twitter.com/UUFnGn2WtQ— Seattle Academy (@SeattleAcademy) August 10, 2020
Samantha Black ‘21 said she gained a lot of confidence through this project. “I learned that in a time of COVID and the Black Lives Matter movement, there are ways to show support and be an ally without going to marches. Due to the safety of my family, I have been unable to go to any marches, but this project allowed my voice to be heard in a different way.”
“We must dispel the notion that our "liberal bubble" somehow insulates us from racial injustice. That's why I focused my mural on the iconic Seattle Space Needle and skyline.” – Margaux Johnstone ‘21 pic.twitter.com/HcyTgLcgMV— Seattle Academy (@SeattleAcademy) August 7, 2020
Margaux Johnstone ‘21 in talking the process of her Seattle Skyline mural shared, “Seattle never had de jure (government imposed) segregation, unlike many other cities in the US, so some people argue that racial discrimination doesn't exist here as it does in other cities. However, de facto (socially imposed) segregation profoundly impacted Seattle and was equally harmful as de jure segregation. For instance, redlining (one form of de facto segregation in Seattle) is the root of why the South End has a majority minority population and the North End has a predominantly white population. The Black Lives Matter movement is needed in Seattle just as much as it's needed in any other part of the country.”
Savannah Parker's '21 piece is inspired by both my perspective and James Baldwin’s words of wisdom; "What is it you wanted me to reconcile myself to? I was born here almost 60 years ago. I'm not going to live another 60 years. You always told me, "it takes time". It's taken my father's time, my mother's time, my uncle's time, my brother's time, and my sister's time. How much time do you want for your progress?" Savannah states, "Everything within my mural has significance. The colors presented in the piece are red, black, and green, the color palette of the African American Flag. The Black figures represent the societal image of a Black human being. The targets represent the consistent dehumanization and criminalization that Black people are forced to endure. The dark green background represents the future of Black pride."
The words above the figures are from a poem Savannah wrote [prior to the current revolution] titled, "Yes, and.” The poem reflects the perspective of the African American struggle to stay the course.
As an African American, since the day you are born, you have a target on your back, and that target remains until the day you die. Living in fear isn’t living at all, but that is the reality that I, as a Black person, was forced to accept. I’ve returned my letter of acceptance to its sender [the oppressor] because to accept is to comply, and I do not comply with continuing to watch my people die.
Throughout this emotionally creative project, students found it important to speak to the moment we are in. As Lucy Waggoner ‘20 expressed “public art can help make you feel safer when you feel represented.”
When asked to summarize, the students want to thank the SAAS Arts Department, including Annalise Olson '09, Lily Hotchkiss, and Tom Flood, for working closely on this project and organizing this unique opportunity. They put in an extraordinary amount of effort to make this work, and they’re all huge role models of kindness, integrity, and optimism. Students also thanked Head of School, Rob Phillips, and all those who advocated and facilitated this project so students could voice their support for Black Lives Matter.
A final thank you to our students, Lucy, Savannah, Samantha, Ethan, Aminta, Maya, and Troy who shared their art with our community.
From our student artists to our Faculty & Staff who helped bring these art murals to our campus. “Thank you SO much to Lily Hotchkiss, Annalise Olson, and Tom Flood. They put in an extraordinary amount of effort to make this work, and they’re all huge role models of kindness, integrity, and optimism to me.” “I want to thank the #SeattleAcademy Arts Department, including Annalise Olson, Lily Hotchkiss, Tom Flood for working closely with me on this project and for reaching out to me and organizing this unique opportunity. I would also like to thank Giselle the Dean of Seattle Academy, Head of School Rob Phillips, and all those who advocated and facilitated this project so students could voice their support for BLM” “Special thank you to Lily Hotchkiss, Annalise Olsen, and Tom Flood, the teachers who helped us put this together. And it was a pleasure to work with my fellow students, Lucy, Savannah, Samantha, Ethan, Aminta, Maya, and Troy.”