J reaches over and takes the pen out of my hand when I ask the group of elementary students at Hartland, “What does it mean to claim something?” “It means this is now mine,” he says, and everyone laughs at his bold, and pretty accurate move.
It is one of those cool, big pens that has eight different colored inks inside and actually belongs to my daughter, so I have to “re-claim it.” But J is right, claiming is about ownership, assertions and senses of belonging and having. As a group we talk about how we can make our claims known to others and what happens when your claims are ignored. Throughout the summer and fall we will be at locations throughout the city asking for participants of all ages and neighborhoods to document their claims and respond to each other. It will be a mobile, visual conversation.
This is the list the Hartland kids come up with about things they claim:
- To take or take back
- Winning a prize
- To own it
- Personal space
- Country or countries
- Food and the type of food you really want to eat
- Bedrooms and living rooms
- Video games and their stuff
Claim– to assert ownership, stake a claim, delineate a space, demand recognition.
“I claim my name,” a seven-year-old art student asserts. She forms a house out of purple paper triangles. “What have you made?” I ask. She replies, “This is a building, these are rivers, this is a mountain, and this. . . is a water snake.” We both smile. And with that she’s claimed the 11×17 inch paper for her own; crafted buildings, water sources, and mountains. Her creativity demands recognition, even if it’s just from me, her art teacher.
In our Claim It! class at the Sorenson Unity Center – every Monday and Wednesday – YouthCity students find ways to Claim It! through art and the exploration of place and community. Partly funded by the National Endowment for the Arts: Our Town grant, the Civic Arts Studio @ Sorenson is a multi-year community art program that engages residents of the Glendale and Poplar Grove neighborhoods in activation and conversation around the key places in West Salt Lake. Working through a variety of civic engagement activities and co-creative programs, youth groups and residents will explore what it means to claim their neighborhood, its rich history, diverse cultures and current vitality. Claim it! will render it visible through site-specific art installation designs slated for specific “opportunity zones” identified in the new West Salt Lake Master Plan.
The posts in this blog will document these civic engagement activities and programs and the day-to-day discoveries students make with claiming the world around them. We hope you will enjoy the journey as we claim OurSLC!