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Art gives fourth-graders a voice

December 1, 2016 // by Anthony Aiuppy

Every Monday morning for the last two months, MOCA Jacksonville's education team has walked through the halls and up the stairs to the fourth-grade classes at Richard Lewis Brown Gifted and Talented Academy. On our way, we check out the impressive art on display or are greeted by students who call us by name. The goal of our time is to work with students who are at an pivotal point in developing their writing and verbal skills. All fourth-graders in the Duval County school system have a rigorous writing test as part of their state assessments. With the Voice of the People outreach program, in partnership with Deutsche Bank, students participate in activities that help them become better equipped to rise to the challenge of writing concisely about a given topic.

Voice of the People RL Brown Students Work on Essays a
Voice of the People students study images of objects in the Permanent Collection as they write their essays. Image courtesy of Anthony Aiuppy.

Over the course of about eight weeks, students come to MOCA and select artworks they will write about in detail. In addition to describing the artworks of their choosing, students critically analyze, thoughtfully interpret, and confidently give their opinions about the artworks. After the writing portion is finished, students enter a quiet room with a microphone and record their essays, full of gained knowledge and insights, in what will become an audio guides for visitors at the Museum.

Voice of the People RL Brown John Wallker Essay
A Voice of the People student works on a draft of an essay about John Walker's charcoal on paper Untitled-CW 1678 in the Permanent Collection. Image courtesy of Anthony Aiuppy.

Voice of the People is one of the reasons I love being at MOCA Jacksonville. The students at R.L. Brown deserve a round of applause for all their hard work. For some students, the writing portion was tougher than nails, but they persevered and made outstanding progress. One student in particular--I'll call him “Devin”--believed he was terrible at writing and couldn't focus and finish anything he tried to write. I could relate to his frustration. I worried he was going to shut down and give up. Then I heard him record his audio guide and was overcome with joy by his amazing and compelling insights about a drawing by John Walker. It was phenomenal. It's a moment I hope to relive in my mind whenever I need a refresher for why I do what I get to do.

MOCA Jacksonville celebrates all of these students' successes in their writing and recording of audio guides for objects in The Donald and Maria Cox Collection during the Voice of the People Showcase at noon-2 p.m. December 10. Visitors can wander through the Permanent Collection on the second floor and hear art criticism like you never have before--from the perspective of a fourth-grader.

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