Human Rights Garden enters second phase


Portsmouth City School have gained continued funding through the Ohio Arts Council, which will allow them to begin the second phase of the human rights garden.

The garden allows to students to explore human rights topics through a plant and sculpture garden created by the students.

Students at Portsmouth City Schools continue to learn about human rights as well as Appalachian culture and human rights issues as they start the second phase of the school district’s Human Rights Garden, inspired by the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Art teacher and project coordinator April Deacon explained through additional funding, the students were able to start working on new inspirations this week.

“We have earned another very generous grant from the Ohio Arts Council to add to our garden,” Deacon stated.

Deacon also added that Brooklyn Artist Traci Molloy has also joined in the project, coming into town on Sept. 20.

“She will be working with high school honors English students, junior high reading intervention students, and my 2-dimensional art students each day through Tuesday, Sept. 26th on various projects for the garden,” Deacon stated.

The Portsmouth City School District’s Human Rights Garden is a plant and sculpture garden created by students that allows for a learning space where students work on projects related to various topics from social students to science.

During the first phase of the project, Portsmouth students participated in projects including an archaeological dig, searching for Hopewell artifacts; working with visiting artists Bryan Thomas and Kevin Lyles to create human rights themed sculptures; and working with educators and designers from the Franklin Park Conservatory to learn about plants and ecosystems.

Additions coming in the second and third phases of the project will include a pollinator garden and vegetable garden. The garden will also continue in exploring local culture.

“As we expand the Human Rights Garden, our focus will be upon identity, hunger, rural poverty, and regionalism as they relate to human rights and to life in Appalachia,” Deacon commented. “Phase II and III of the Human Rights Garden will occur over a two-year period.”

During these phases, Deacon says the students will have two visiting artists — Molloy and Rich Plummer.

“Phase II will encompass three artist workshops and the creation of two small pollinator gardens, which will flank the phase one garden,” she added. “While phase III will include installation of artworks created utilizing imagery from phase II and the production of two vegetable gardens, which will surround the pollinator gardens.”

Molloy is brought in through matching funds from the University of Rio Grande.

“Molloy’s workshops will include discussions about identity, regionalism, stereotypes and hunger,” Deacon explained. “She will also deliver relevant art historical presentations. Art students will collaborate with Molloy to create interpretive self-portraits utilizing painting, Photoshop, and digital printing. The images produced will be become resource material for works to be included in the phase III vegetable garden. Honors English students will work with Molloy to generate poetry that will be integrated into the garden, while Junior High Reading Intervention students will also generate text to be included. The text will become converted into tile structures that will complement/parallel artist Rich Plummer’s workshops.”

Plummer will be working with students in October, when he will guide the pupils in designing and producing two sculptures consisting of stained glass inside a wood form. Students will continue learning to incorporate architectural salvage as they include elements of Portsmouth’s past in their works.

“Evolving from the work of phase I, molds of architectural salvage will be utilized to create benches and tiles for the pollinator garden,” Deacon stated. “Students will also utilize the new glass kiln and new skills in glass slumping and fusing (taught by Kevin Lyles in phase I) to produce pollinator themed glass tiles which will be inserted into concrete raised beds. These glass art processes will also be utilized while producing tiles inspired by the text generated during Molloy’s workshops.”

Molloy will return in March to host workshops with social studies and art students to research food, farming and poverty in Southern Ohio. They will also include some photography and they document their ideas.

Through the garden, students are not only meeting with artists and professionals from around the state and country, they also have an opportunity to engage in and learn from individuals with differing views and life experiences. The opportunity helps students to explore human rights concepts and issues in a new ways as they hear different understandings and solutions.

The Human Rights Garden is planned to be a continually evolving space for Portsmouth students.

“In the coming years, additional phases of the project may include an outdoor physical fitness area, gazebos, bee habitats, and an outdoor exhibition space,” Deacon noted. “It is a generous TeachArtsOhio grant through the Ohio Arts Council which makes our project possible!”

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.