Genia Blackwell has been a DC SCORES writing coach at MacFarland Middle School for nearly two years and has made great contributions to the program. Now, she is helping in another way.
Blackwell is creating artwork for the first DC SCORES Inspired Art Gala (May 19, Corcoran Gallery of Art) based off the poetry of her students. Artists’ works will be displayed at the event with the poems that inspire them and will be included in a silent auction.
Recently, Blackwell – who studied Art Education at the University of Mississippi and also spent two years in the Peace Corps – took the time from her busy schedule to answer questions about her passion for art and its connection to DC SCORES:
What’s been the best part of basing artistic works on students’ poems?
"The most enjoyable part of the process was showing Brenda (a MacFarland student whose poem Blackwell worked off) the work of art after it was complete. For her to see something that she wrote used to create something beautiful was really touching for both of us. It was a proud moment.
"This was possibly one of the most enjoyable things I have done in the studio. I was honored to use Brenda’s very emotional poem in the work of art. All of my art is work in progress. I often have several stacks of unfinished prints that I am not satisfied with. Before adding Brenda’s poem to this particular piece, I really loved the colors and the placement of all the images on the page but I felt like something was missing.
"This poem brings all of the imagery together and brings an interesting contrast to the Emily Dickinson poem that is also on the page."
How different is it from how you usually go about creating works of art?
"This process was different in that I usually take a lot longer to make a work of art. Nothing is ever really ‘finished.’ I might wait to finish a piece for years until I find the last piece of the puzzle. The foundation for this work of art was done last summer. I often find the ideas and inspiration for my work as I go through life.
"I don’t always set out with a specific finished product in mind. So this was a little harder. In order to find something that I was really happy with, I had to read all of my students’ journals and search for a poem that really spoke to me. I had four or five potential pieces that I wanted to work with, and in the end the poem and the art found each other."
How long have you been an artist and what makes you passionate about creating art?
"I have been an artist for as long as I can remember. My mind creates constantly. The world makes me passionate about art. It is a way to show the world what I see when I look out a bus window. When I create a print, drawing or sculpture, I express my ideas through imagery, techniques and spontaneity.
"The images I use come from the world around me. I do not feel the need to create new images. Simply filter existing imagery through my mind, making something different and more interesting than what was first observed. I mix places and times so the end product is unrecognizable from the first encounter with the person, place or thing."
How important is it for students like yours to explore their artistic sides in the classroom?
"The students that I work with in the classroom and in DC SCORES are all desperate to be heard. They want to express their feelings and put their ideas out into the world. By allowing them to discover and explore through art and poetry, I am giving them the opportunity to be heard. There is a great sense of excitement and joy when the students come into the classroom and begin creating."
When your students create poems or other artistic projects, how is their attitude toward school affected?
"When a student is given the opportunity to express his or her ideas, they are more relaxed. They don’t feel as obligated to fight back. When they come to school, they know that they have something to look forward to at the end of the day. They will have a chance to do what they want to do and be as creative as they can be."
What are you most excited about in looking forward to the May 19 Inspired Art Gala?
"I am really looking forward to seeing Saba (of MacFarland) perform. She is planning her outfit and asking a million questions. If I had one wish, it would be that all our students could attend and see that what they do in the classroom doesn’t stay in the classroom. They have a voice and people want to hear it."