McLane’s Mississipi Freedom Summer Project, 1964 : Fifty Years of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act
This project started in the summer of 2014. Marc Patterson, lead teacher for the ArtVenture Academy, read a book, “Coming of Age In Mississippi”, by Anne Moody. The book and several conversations with the staff of the academy prompted us to explore a project to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the The Civil Rights Act, with a special focus on Mississippi Freedom Summer, 1964, which serves as a vehicle by which students explore how young people can unite in the face of injustice to create transformative change in themselves and in their communities through non-violence.
While embracing a diverse student population, the project gives voice specifically to the African American student population through the lens of the Civil Rights Movement. The project is grounded in core texts as well as conversations with African American students, faculty, and leaders within the larger African American community. Students are learning about African Americans who have made contributions historically to their communities and the nation. They are given opportunities to explore their own identities and the influence of media on our perceptions of identity. The final exhibit will consist of nine 4x8 foot panels, created using the wood block printing process, beginning with passage of the 15th Amendment, and depicting key scenes and text from the Mississippi Freedom Summer, 1964. Design students created a three-dimensional “freedom” bus, with African American historical figures and scenes from the Freedom Summer are part of the installation. Video Production students created four documentaries on various aspects of Freedom Summer events. Student research and first person interviews relating Civil Rights stories, taking form as Spoken Word performances, explore themes of identity. Artwork from student sketchbooks will focus on many of the people and events of the Civil Rights Movement. By studying Mississippi Freedom Summer, 1964, students are challenged by contemporary issues of injustice and reconciliation as they seek to understand the complexities of the varied Black experiences, as well as to give voice to their own challenges and experiences through writing, art, film, and performance.
Mixed media installation:
Woodblock prints, drawings, paintings, collage, freedom bus replica, student voice.
Exhibit: Juneteenth at Gaston Middle School (2015), African American Museum (September/October 2015)
After meeting with African American community leaders, we decided to focus the project on some history of the civil rights movement, with a specific focus on the Mississippi Freedom Summer events of 1964. We decided to use the woodblock printing process because it best represented to look and feel of the 1960’s. The black and white process of printmaking provided a very graphic, stark look. Half of the art classes began work on the large 4 x 8 foot blocks. A small group of students agreed to provide leadership, design and drawing skills for the blocks. Once the blocks were drawn and inked, students were taught to carve using special wood carving tools. Sections of the blocks were inked and printed for checking copies. Once everything was cut properly we had a team of printers roll up the blocks which took about 90 minutes, then we laid the rice paper down on top of the inked block, then rubbed the back with barens. This process took 90 minutes. Once a print was pulled, the block was cleaned. A full size replica of the Freedom Bus was fabricated to serve as a backdrop for student performers.