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Kensington CAPA teacher: 'Art can be a powerful tool for promoting change and building bridges'

Kensington Creative and Performing Art High School (KCAPA) held an art exhibition showcasing the incredible talent and creativity of the students. The event was held on the evening of Feb. 2  at the Story Factory at 1600 N. 5th St. The Story Factory, a creative space founded by Ashlee and Elijah Hollis, sponsored the event, providing an amazing venue for the exhibit.

The exhibit, titled “Storytime,” featured works by KCAPA students from Visual Arts and CTE classes, who used art to tell stories and promote change. What made this exhibit unique was the collaboration between various groups of people who came together for the purpose of promoting and showcasing the talents of the students. The teachers wanted to give their students an opportunity to demonstrate their talents and skills to the community. 

The 26th Police District, under the direction of Captain Maria Ortiz-Rodriguez, partnered with KCAPA for the event. The police and students worked together to create Neurographic Art, which uses lines and color to share or answer a question. Students painted 4 feet by 8 feet canvas pieces to answer questions such as “How do you feel about the police?” and “How do you feel about the violence in Philly?” The students’ paintings were filled with black, bold lines that swerved in continuous chaotic motion around the canvas. The shapes created were painted using dark shades of color. Many students used different variations of red, creating a somber tone. The police responded with a painting of their own, answering the question, “How do you feel about teenagers?” Their art was bright and more colorful, using many color choices. The canvas was hopeful as the lines traveled easily across the painting. Through the art, the teachers saw the students’ responses to the questions and their creativity and passion for expressing themselves. The art became a medium for crucial conversations and allowed both groups to build relationships and trust.  

Student artwork on display at Story Factory on 1600 N 5th St. for Kensington High School for Creative and Performing Arts’ exhibit “Storytime,”. (Photo courtesy of Regina Feighan-Drach)

I spoke with some of the participants to learn how they felt about the project.

 “It has been my greatest pleasure working with the students and staff at KCAPA this last year,” Ortiz-Rodriguez said. “A simple idea of meeting and connecting with the young artists and displaying their art at our district, blossomed into a full-fledged art exhibit. Not only did we enjoy the talent showcased by the students, but also the time we were able to spend together creating memories and relationships that we will continue.”

Camila Rosario, a student in 10th grade at the school, was present at the event.  

“I liked seeing all the members of the community included,” Rosario said. “The police and students performing and sharing artwork was a great experience.”  

Jada Saez-Colón, another student, had her work showcased at the exhibition.

“It was amazing to see my work displayed,” Saez-Colón said. “It was a dream come true! I know if I continue to work hard, my work can be on display at bigger venues. I would love to do something like this again.”

Part of the exhibit also allowed for performances by students and police officers, who shared the stage to showcase their musical talents. The Musical Theatre students performed two songs, “Children of the Arts” and “I Know Where I’ve Been.” Luke Felix, an Instrumental Music student, played the saxophone performing his renditions of the songs “Sorry” and “Forever in Love.” Police Officer S. Velazquez captivated the crowd, singing “Goodness Of God,” and Officer A. Ortega ended the evening singing his versions of “Can’t Help Falling In Love” and  “La Bamba.” The event was a success, not just because of the incredible art pieces displayed but also because of the meaningful conversations and relationships built through this collaboration.

Student artwork on display at Story Factory on 1600 N 5th St. for Kensington High School for Creative and Performing Arts’ exhibit “Storytime,”. (Photo courtesy of Regina Feighan-Drach)

“I remember standing there watching my students and the members of the 26th Police District perform and I wiped away tears with a big smile,” said KCAPA Principal Patricia McDermott. “At that moment, I thought the possibilities were endless, not only for students but for the Kensington community.”

This exhibit is a reminder that art can be a powerful tool for promoting change and building bridges between different groups of people. It allows individuals to share their perspectives and experiences and for others to listen and learn. The impact of this exhibit will continue to be felt in the community, as the stories told through the art inspire change and encourage unity.

Editors: Siani Colón, Zari Tarazona / Designer: Siani Colón