In a classroom at Damien Memorial School, the scene is controlled chaos while teacher Mrs. Pai confers individually with 10th graders on an assignment. Girls in purple polo shirts huddle together around desks, some sitting in each other’s lap, like tumbling puppies—if puppies took selfies.
Museum artist instructor Andrea Charuk is at the tail end of a six-week Art to Go project with the class. As part of the multipronged program on transportation, Mrs. Pai has the students writing to legislators regarding traffic issues and Charuk has them doing art exercises involving visual and audio impairment.
In the previous session, Charuk had students pair up. One student was given a drawing, and had to verbally guide her partner to recreate the drawing. In this session, no talking is allowed. One student has to convey to his partner, who is listening to music through earphones, how to color in the drawing they had already completed. The teams were given a few minutes to strategize how they would communicate colors and placement without words. It was wonderful to see how each team came up with problem-solving techniques to complete the assignment. Some came up with clear systems (assigning numbers to the colors in the watercolor kit), others relied on their own form of charades.
One boy crossed his wrists and bounced them up and down. “What’s that? Gangnam Style?” I asked, confused as to how that cultural reference might correspond to a color or shape. His partner wailed, “I don’t know what Gangnam Style means!”
At the end, Charuk asked them how the exercise made them feel, and how being visually and auditorially impaired or distracted might affect a driver’s performance on the road.
“Who was frustrated?” asked Charuk. A lot of students said, “Me!”
Each painting, when put together with the others, formed a mural depicting the aerial view of a street system.
Other elements of the project included working on a visual ad campaign for rail, to understand how language is used for communicating agendas, and recognizing that they can be heard on important issues by writing those letters to legislators.
The Art to Go course, part of the museum’s outreach program, was conducted in partnership with St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church’s Na Hokulele Program (Shooting Stars), and funded by the Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Office of University Partnerships, Alaska/Native Hawaiian Institutions Assisting Communities (AN/NHIAC) Program and Hawaii Pacific University.