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CalPoets' Student Poetry On Display at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco

Twenty-four Lowell H.S. ninth grade students’ poetry/visual arts projects were displayed this May at the Asian Art Museum as part of the San Francisco Youth Arts Festival. Throughout the school year, all the ninth grade students in Susie Terence's (CalPoets’ Area Coordinator – San Francisco County) poetry workshops were asked to either perform their favorite poem that they’d written or to create a visual work to accompany their poem for presentation at our last classroom poetry session. Early on, Susie showed students samples of prior students’ visual projects.

Susie says that it motivated many of her students to create a higher quality of work once she told them that their work could possibly be displayed at a local art museum or the main library. In Susie’s words: “My aim is to always try to find ways to share student work with the larger community.” The Lowell H.S. Alumni Association and the school’s Eng. Dept. helped provide funds for the residencies and the projects.

Interested in finding ways to get student poetry on display in your community? Susie’s suggestions: Find out early in the school year the deadlines for displays for school district or city-wide student events. Also, contact coffee shops, colleges, airports, college poetry centers or creative writing departments and any government offices or historical societies to see if they might wish to display students’ poetry/visual art projects. Many of these venues might also welcome a student reading to highlight the visual display.

This has been the first year that the SFUSD Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) Department has included specific works of this sort from CalPoets workshops. The SFUSD curator for the event had some very helpful suggestions for what museums and libraries could possibly include in future displays and shows:

1) Have the poem be an integral part of the visual display

2) Have the wording of the poem be easily legible

3) Have the visual item be easily portable and small enough so that it could fit into flat or small display cases since space is always limited

3) Museums may not accept outside projects that have wood or fabric components in case of any possible insect infestation

4) The museums or other public venues may not be able to accept or display student work with subject matter that could be considered inflammatory or possibly be a “trigger” topic. (Topics that might be considered inflammatory in one region might be acceptable in another locale. So, it would be a good idea ahead of time to ask any curator of a public venue what topics or types of visuals would they not be able to include.)

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