‘Power to the People: The Art of Protest’ at Hill Center

Maury student supports animal rights. 

Maury Elementary School fourth- and fifth-grade students have created a series of provocative protest art pieces advocating for social changes that are important to them. Topics include homelessness, inequality in the justice system, animal rights, adoption, health and environmental issues, vegetarianism, and gun control.

The students were given free rein in identifying causes that resonate with them and choosing communication media that would best express their opinions, grievances, or solutions. The work had to function as art, compelling both visually and emotionally. Many found that traditional protest posters were the most effective way to present their message to a wide audience. Others created street art or T-shirts using spray paint and stencils cut with X-Acto knives. A few developed powerful performance pieces including dance, raps, and skits. A selection of posters and stencils is on view through the end of August in the Young Artists Gallery on the ground floor at Hill Center, 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE.

The project began with a study of the modern history of advocacy art. Taking note of a variety of ways in which those before them have stood up for what they believe in, the students considered the work of Ernest Withers, a photojournalist and icon of the Civil Rights Movement; the anonymous graffiti artist and political activist known as Banksy; and images and performances sparked by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Art teacher Lauren Bomba believes that “artists are the creative problem solvers of our time,” and insisted that each student approach the project as an artist with an independent vision. The students rose to the challenge. Amelia Huxley, an aspiring lawyer, believes that “everyone should have a good lawyer in court, even if they’re poor … It’s not fair if one side has a good lawyer and the other doesn’t.” Matheno Nichols is concerned that “lots of people are dying from gun violence but not a lot of people are going to church.” Max Genderson says, “When you litter and throw something on the ground, you’re throwing away money … because the government has to pay someone to pick it up.” Daniel McFarlane is outraged by the cramped quarters in puppy mills.

Consider for yourself Bomba’s questions for her students: “What is something you would be willing to stand up for? What if you were afraid it was dangerous, would you still speak out? What are some of the other ways to spread truth and knowledge about an important issue?” And come see this thought provoking show.

Choose love, not hate.
Young advocate for gun control.
Young advocate for gun control.
Cutting a stencil.