Dionne Custer Edwards is a writer, artist-educator, and our educator for school programs. Among many school programs, she runs the Wexner Center’s Pages, a year-long art and literacy program. With the ninth year of the program coming to a close, she, along with participating students and teachers, reflects on the year.
Pages has brought our English class together in a new, creative way, and it taught me how to be open to new styles of learning and expressing my thoughts.—Molly S. (Rutherford B. Hayes High School student)
Pages allowed me to see a side of my students that I never would have seen without the program. They became creative, lively, and engaged about language and art and material that never interested them before. I saw a new side of them because they discovered a new side to learning. It was an amazing experience.—Mandy Bruney (Pickerington Central High School teacher)
Through Pages, I have grown not only as a student but also as a person. The impactful and mind-opening experiences I’ve had will stay with me forever.—David A. (Rutherford B. Hayes High School student)
I’ve participated in the Pages program for a number of years and each year it never ceases to amaze me how much it opens up my students to the possibility of what creativity means. Prior to this, a lot of my students think that creativity means being a fine artist, but after Pages and having discussions and looking at all these different kinds of art [i.e. visual-, performing-, and media-based art], they are opened to possibility of not only the creativity out in the world, but the creativity inside themselves.—Kim Leddy (Mosaic [program for 11th and 12th grade students] teacher)
It [Pages open mic and reception] was an occasion to remember—the courage our young people displayed in telling their stories speaks volumes about Pages as a source of empowerment.—Aaron Sherman (Arts and College Preparatory Academy teacher)
Pages is a sanctuary for writers and artists.—Trajan M. (Franklin Heights High School student)
As we conclude this year’s Pages program, we watch readers swept away by the release of the latest edition of the Pages anthology, a collection of youth voices featuring participants from the 2014–15 program year. The book, which you can find in digital form here, serves as a celebration of our work this year, a glimpse into where students were willing to take their writing and their art. It is evident while flipping through this beautifully-bound anthology, a pale blue, landscape frame with a cloth-covered spine, the influence of the year’s experiences on these students’ writing and art-making, their thinking and dreaming.
Over the course of the year, 200 students from eight different Central Ohio schools participated in a series of classroom visits and field trips to the Wexner Center, led by a collaboration of Wexner Center educators, classroom teachers, and local artists. At the beginning of the year, we simply ask participants to keep an open mind as we might encounter art that is provocative, sophisticated, or unusual. From resistance and protest, to energy and power, to globalization, Pages students encountered and grappled with complex themes and ideas through media arts, Forbidden Voices (2012); performing arts, Mitch Epstein and Erik Friedlander’s American Power; and visual arts, Hassan Hajjaj: My Rock Stars Experimental Volume I and Fiber: Sculpture 1960-present. Students, with their curious glances, smiles, engaging questions, and a willingness to try on contemporary art, surprised us again and again with their flexibility and energy, a willingness to play and think critically and creatively. They overcame the uneasiness of the unfamiliar, the complicated, the complex, generously sharing their voice. Our Pages teachers and students were a thoughtful bunch, with the stamina to pen essays and narratives on freedom and inclusivity, poems on identity and revelation, and artwork of multiple themes and media: stained, stitched, and stated.
We wrapped up the year with one of the final events: the open mic and reception, a debut of the writings and artwork of our Pages youths at the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s brand new Whitehall Branch. The open mic, hosted by the brilliant Kim Brazwell, stirred up the audience with writing on grace, reflection, humor, and tears, where throughout that room, the words of these young writers carried the tone of the evening and the spirit of this program. As local writer and poet Joy Sullivan put it, “Their voices really mattered.”
—Dionne Custer Edwards, educator for school programs