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BSSD art project highlights social justice issues

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‘Hand Guns’ by Mason Dickerson PHOTO COURTESY OF DJ SOIKELLI/BSSD

Hard topics tackled in pop art paintings

By Michael Somerby EBS STAFF

BIG SKY – The youth have long been hailed—in some instances, scorned—for their role in society as the de facto social critics.

Some might chock it up to youthful need for rebellion, or, in a reductive dismissal, hormones. More likely, it’s recognition of the immediate inheritance of the world and its affairs.

Whatever one’s position on the matter, the phenomenon is a fact of life. And 8th graders of the Big Sky School District have answered the call of outspoken advocacy through a series of pop art paintings highlighting some of the most pressing, sometimes contentious, problems of the era.

Touching upon a wide range of topics, from white tigers being inbred, to pill addiction, gun violence, political strife in Hong Kong and police brutality, among others, members of the 8th grade class put brush to canvas in hopes of illustrating what matters to them.

“They are incredible,” art teacher DJ Soikkeli told EBS. “[It’s] cool for them to see their work in the paper, because then they are validated that their voice does matter and is being heard.”

Soikkeli had each student write an artist statement to accompany the pieces, designed to underscore their creative vision and why they chose the topic they did.

Take Logan Barker’s commentary on rape culture.

“The big idea that my artwork illustrates is how as a whole our society encourages

rape culture,” Barker wrote about her piece, “Encouragement at the Circus.” “I intend to single out how as a society as a whole we practice encouraging this idea that it is OK to rape.”

Or Mason Dickerson’s portrayal of gun violence in the U.S.

“A growing issue in the United States is gun violence and gun legislation,” Dickerson wrote. “The goal of my art piece is to spread awareness for the growing gun violence in the U.S. and to show all we need to do is put out a helping hand for everybody.”

Through this creative project, students were given a platform to voice their outrage and sadness for woes of today. Art and activism are staunch associates—through the BSSD curriculum and Soikkeli’s oversight, that relationship is now celebrated by the 8th graders of Big Sky.

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