The original production opened at Saginaw Arts and Sciences Academy in the winter of 2008. We transformed the school to become multiple galleries of live and replicated artwork from the Saginaw Art Museum and from Picasso’s rich tome of work. Our production also had a multi-media exhibit on twentieth century wars and ideas on peace. This unique experience was awe-inspiring to those involved and those attending:
Student: How did you know to do this?
Me: I thought it up.
Student (incredulously): In your head?
On our transformation of the auditorium to art gallery and the school to museum:
Faculty (paraphrased): I come here on my lunch hour just to see the progress and be inspired. In all my years here, I've never seen anything as amazing as this.
Hired to teach speech and theatre on an emergency teaching certificate less than a week before the first day of school, I knew I would need freedom to produce a show that didn’t need to adhere or wasn’t confined to a licensing agreement. Years prior, I had participated in a live art exhibit. It was fun, educational, and brought a sense of play and community to those involved. I decided that I would write a play for my students that would open a gateway for this to occur for them. With a firm concept in my mind, production launched immediately and I began my script right away. I knew we needed every minute to mount this big endeavor.
The Saginaw Art Museum, around the corner from the school, beckoned to my sense of community engagement and arts enrichment. My students and I took more than one field trip there to explore and ‘adopt’ the art. The play, Picasso Becomes You, grew out of this experience. The forty-five minute staged production in the auditorium was preceded by an immersive, promenade style, live art, scripted experience for patrons.
The following year, we did a reprisal of the show at the Saginaw Art Museum, for the Annual Children’s Art Festival. Later, I expanded the project, producing it in Port Huron, Michigan. Picasso Becomes You evolved into The Picasso Project, which now included a community Peace Project, entered in ArtPrize Grand Rapids in its inaugural year and expanding to include children in Honduras, the following year.
Through this experience with The Picasso Project, Picasso Becomes You, the Peace Projects, and my subsequent Picasso Mini Fair, I have watched lives transform and witnessed more than a few blooms from seeds we planted along the way, such as the complete refurbishment of the WWI Poster collection at the Saginaw Art Museum. My class and I selected that project, held awareness events throughout the community through live art experiences at businesses and in local parades, and raised the funds to refurbish and frame four historic works of art.
Following this, others within the community and at the museum completed the task and now the entire collection is a notable exhibit.
My peace projects have involved numerous schools, community members, and individuals across the continent as well as Honduras. I have led workshops in and engaged schools from the elementary to college level for every aspect of the Picasso and Peace Projects. In addition, recruited numerous volunteers from businesses and the private sector, written grants, gathered sponsors, and participated in parades or other community sponsored events.
There is power in creating together as a community—engaging in inspiring work and building up—rather than tearing down. The Picasso Project provides just such an opportunity. If you would like to bring this project to your community, let’s talk! Email me here.