Stories are one of the first cultural experiences of childhood. Even newborns can expect a bedtime story.
The Lexington Art League's current exhibition, Tales They Told Us, examines the scale and effect of cultural narratives and mythologies. But what about the stories kids have to tell us grown-ups? Isn't it important to hear their perspectives on the narratives playing out in their lives?
LAL outreach coordinator Mary Beth Magyar collaborated with Common Good, a faith-based nonprofit serving kids in North Lexington, to visually document the stories of nine students in kindergarten through sixth grade, many of whom are Hispanic or black immigrants.
The result is Tales We're Telling You, a companion exhibit on the second floor of the Loudoun House.
Working one on one, each child drew directly onto wood panels with pencil in a series of drawings that reflect themes of family, love, power, bullying and playtime. The drawings were carved into woodblock prints by artist Joel Feldman and then printed by Derrick Riley.
The young artists and collaborators will be signing the works during a reception this spring.
Feldman, a retired professor of printmaking, describes the project as a "true collaboration."
"I kept their characters and their details, but I really developed the image and the space around it and the whole composition so it became a formal print if you will," he says.
"This type of collaboration offers a lot of possibilities for young students because it allows them to work with a professional and to see the results and characters of their ideas really pushed and developed," Feldman says, adding that it can be a unique way to approach issues such as bullying, a subject some of the young artists address.
"Certainly you can handle it through school administration, but if the kids get to actually talk about their reaction to the situation, and then have their images shown in a public place," he says, "it can have an effect and make people think in ways that are a little different."
Feldman hopes the city or perhaps a private citizen will buy the prints and display them in a public setting such as a library, giving the profits to the children.
Candace Chaney is a Lexington-based writer.