This year's project with 7th/8th graders from Cohen Hillel Academy & Salem Academy Charter School in partnership with the Peabody Essex Museum concluded in wrapping up a year long examination considering the meaning of identity and culture through a review of various types of masks from the past and present: what are different types of masks? is a mask liberating or constraining? is wearing a mask a choice of a necessity?
Guided by these questions and the museum's connecting community philosophy to "present and interpret works of art and culture in ways that connect art to the world, the program kicked off with and examination of maya angelou's poem "the mask" with ensuing sessions allowing students to reflect on the historical, culture and personal impact of masks through the use of museum exhibits, film, poetry, guided activities, presentations and discussion.
Similar to last year, the project culminated in an exhibit and presentation. The exhibit consisted of the student's creating personal masks that demonstrated an understanding of the way we define ourselves, and the way we are defined by others. They were presented in an arrangement created by the students.
For my part, I photographed each session to communicate the interaction and focus of the lesson and created a book which served as a document of the project. I also photographed each student wearing their mask and asked them to pose in a way that would mirror the feeling they wanted to express. I also photographed each student without their mask and presented those portraits separately and presented them in b/w so a viewer would be more challenged to determine the identity as the clothing wouldn't be as obvious a clue.