As a response to the gun violence epidemic in Chicago, the freshman Class of 2020 is currently investigating and researching gun violence statistics, stories about victims, and ways in which they can raise awareness and evoke a change in the rising homicide rates and social injustices in the city. Krista Wortendyke, artist and activist, presented her research to the students on Wednesday during a Freshman Town Hall held in Roberto Clemente Community Academy auditorium.
Wortendyke spoke to students about her research on homicides in Chicago from Memorial Day to Labor Day in 2010. She discussed her personal experience and how it changed her perspective on racism, segregation, and the media’s representation of crime. As a way to memorialize the victims, Wortendyke took photographs of the site where the victims were killed. She then created a visual representation of all of the sites, which took the form of a city skyline. Wortendyke’s exhibit called This Heat was featured, along with artists Cheryl Pope and Garland Martin Taylor, from June 24 – September 24 at the Weinberg/Newton Gallery at 300 W. Superior Street in Chicago.
A group of freshmen had the opportunity to visit the Weinberg/Newton Gallery to view and analyze the artwork in the exhibit, This Heat. Students focused on developing their International Baccalaureate Learner Profile traits as they acted as inquirers while they viewed the exhibit. Students recorded questions about the exhibit, interpretations of the artwork, and personal connections they experienced as they investigated the full exhibit. Elijah Teasley said, “I live right by a lot of the photographs where people were killed. It’s weird to see that people died in those places.”
The group of students who visited the gallery returned to Clemente to share their perspectives and to discuss their ideas to raise awareness and change the pattern of violence in Chicago. Freshman Jhamonte McDonald suggested that groups of students research statistics from the summer of 2016 and then write rap songs and poems about the gun violence crisis that would then be performed in a Poetry Slam in Clemente’s auditorium. Other students suggested writing letters to politicians and joining groups such as Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence.
The students will continue their research in every class and create a culminating piece of art that will be displayed and/or performed in Clemente’s lobby. Students and teachers will determine a final plan for the project in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for more information about the Class of 2020’s interdisciplinary art project that raises awareness about the gun violence epidemic in Chicago.