Edward Smith School/PAL Project Collaboration

“I Understand Everything”

Photography and writing by the students at Edward Smith K-8 School.

Understanding has been written about by philosophers, psychologists, religious leaders, politicians, children and many more. It is a word that carries concepts that are at the core of being human. You can use the word understanding as a noun, verb, or adjective and it still applies to a person’s ability to act humanly. One can understand by comprehension, one can understand by creating a harmonious relationship, one can understand by coming to an agreement of opinion or feeling:  the adjustment of difference or one can understand by an explanation or interpretation. Understanding, to me, is at the center of what makes a group of people a community.

As I read Tiran’s poem I was struck with the idea of understanding. Tiran is autistic and non-verbal. He is often upset causing him to cry loudly and make loud sounds. I have just given you a simple understanding of Tiran, an understanding of him without his “voice.” Now hear his voice through his poem. He wonders, dreams, wants to dance, pretends to talk, and worries about his brother. He understands everything. Through “listening” to Tiran we come to a real understanding of him; one that takes effort and time but most of all the ability to listen.

In our current times with a failing public education system, killing of children like Trevon Martin, and wars all over the globe it is imperative that people take the time and effort it takes to listen to one another; to understand one another. This is a situation where people need to start at the grass roots. Start with our kids; these kids tonight. Listen to their words. Do what you can to understand them. It is through our actions as parents, teachers, and guardians that these kids will learn to listen and understand others. With understanding there is hope to change some of the daunting issues of our times.

Mary Lynn Mahan, Edward Smith School Art Teacher

Hillside/PAL Project collaboration opening reception coming August 16 at the LINK Gallery

PAL Project Collaborations with Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection

I Am …

Tomas Transtromer, a Swedish poet, writes, in his prose poem “The Blue House,” “All sketches want to become real.”  A major part of our working with the community with our class (TRM 310/610 – Literacy, Community, and Media / ENG 650) is to offer up this possibility.

We encourage young populations to create diverse statements about themselves and the world they engage in through photography and creative writing.  We try to indicate methods and means by which their imaginations can confer with reality, a conversation if you will.  For some young people this is their first experience in letting their sense for visual art collaborate with their sense for the written word.  We trust that through events like this exhibition, and with the completion of a book of their work, we will encourage young students to continue to acquaint themselves with creative possibilities in photography, writing, or other art forms.

It is okay to have “the blue-ooze” (poet Jayne Cortez).  It is okay to have “low to high tone endings disappearing into / a charcoal forest” (Jayne Cortez).  We show the students photography and writing which has “a very fine pulse” (again, Cortez).  We try to indicate the pulse of the student work with our suggestions and choices.  The real and the imagined can be found in something as simple as “I see the windows, and trees, and tomorrow” (Sapphire).  Or the real and imagined can be as sweetly intricate as poet Terrance Hayes writes in “Wind in a Box” – “I want to be the mirror, / but not the nightstand.  I do not want to be the light switch.”

This exhibition, and others like it, are celebrations of young student work in our Syracuse community.  We hope you feel the lively pulse of their endeavors.

A special thanks to: Syracuse University, Chancellor, Nancy Cantor, Coalition of Museum and Art Centers, Near West Side Initiative, The College of Visual and Performing Arts, SUArt Gallery, Warehouse Gallery, Syracuse City School District, The Partnership for Better Education, Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection, Wayne O’Conner, Mike Olsen, Hillside Advocates, the graduate and undergraduate students from Syracuse University who took this course this semester and worked with enthusiasm and care with the young creators. Mostly, thanks to the kids for allowing us into your world.

Michael Burkard and Stephen Mahan

North Side Learning Center/PAL Project collaboration–Check back soon to view their amazing final projects.

Why do you stare
 Just because I cover my hair
 Why do you glower
 Just because of my attire
 Why do you seem to think
 That I don’t care
 That I have no feelings
 No sense of compassion
 No sense of fashion
 No sense of what’s right
 And for whom I fight
 So just listen to me
 Truly… I’m free
 I’m part of mortality
 Not an alien freak 
And this hostility 
Is hurting me
 Deep inside,
 I’m burning 
Yearning to break free
 Of this stupidity

Why can’t you listen?
 Why can’t you open your eyes?
 See my tears
 See me cry
 See me and open your heart 
I’m not a strange being 
I’m not an invading force 
I’m just a human girl 
And you have no right 
To mess with my affairs
 To make rules and laws
 That goes against my way of life 
Against my sense of what’s true
 No matter what you think 
I’m not in need of a rescue
 I’m happy with what I choose 
I don’t need liberating
 And I’m not giving up 
I don’t need your blessing 
To follow my heart
 To live my life

But just listen 
I’m only asking you to listen
 See me for who I am
 See me for what I am
Please… I’m asking you
 Just for a second
 Open your hearts 
See the truth
 See me for who I am
 See me for what I am
Look past the screen 
Look past the barrier you see
 And look at my personality
 I’m not a murderer
 I’m not a beggar 
I’m not a failure
 I’m just a human being
 And I just want you to see 
Me for who I am

Underneath my scarf 
Underneath my hijab 
I’m just an ordinary girl 
With hopes and dreams 
And I want to be free
 Of you discriminating me 
Because I’ve done nothing wrong
 And you shouldn’t convict me 
For breaking a law
 That doesn’t exist 
Leave me in peace
 Stop trying to “assist”
 Because it’s not helping
 It’s just breaking
 Our souls
 By locking us up 
In a jail of hate and scorn
 And of adversity
 As if we have some fatal disease
 And it hurts

So please
 Listen to me 
When I say
 We are already free
 We have no desire 
No want to shed our attire
 We just want to be let free
 Of this cage of misery 
Of hate
 This boundary
 That you have helped create
 Pay attention to me 
Because instead of liberating me
 You have thrown me to the lions
 And I’m tired of being torn at
 I’m tired of being an outcast
 I just want to be me
 And I want you to see
 That you haven’t helped me to be free
 Instead you’ve taken that away
 Face it… you’ve imprisoned me 
And I hope you’re happy
 Because I’ve lost my liberty
 Why couldn’t you see?
 That I was already free…


The Link Gallery at the Warehouse presents Syracuse University’s PAL Project collaboration with Fowler High School, “Together We Made It.” Public Reception: Thursday, May 17, 5-7pm

Together We Made It

Public Reception: Thursday, May 17, 5-7pm

Together We Made It
Welcome to the PAL (Photo and Literacy) Project between Fowler High School and Syracuse University. This is the seventh collaboration between Stephen Mahan’s Syracuse University TRM310/610 students and Adam Lutwin’s English 11 and 12 classes at Fowler High School. Over a 12-week period, Fowler students were given journals and digital cameras to document their experiences and complete specific photo and writing assignments. In weekly sessions, they combined the use of cameras and creative writing to explore their own definitions of setting, conflict, and point of view, as well as completing original poetry, speeches and short non-fiction. As the viewer, you gain unbridled access to the artists, who present themselves in ways that they never knew possible. What each student identifies as ordinary creates an unmatched individuality that is too often lost in the standardized classroom. This participation in the self shows students that their stories have merit and meaning and that sharing what they know is extremely important. We invite you to explore, read, observe and ask questions about this wonderful collection of inspiring work. We appreciate your patronage and above all want you to know that, “Together We Made It!”
Special thanks to: Syracuse University, Chancellor, Nancy Cantor, Fowler High School Administration and Staff, The Reisman Foundation, The Partnership for Better Education, Coalition of Museum and Art Centers, The College of Visual and Performing Arts, Near West Side Initiative, SUArt Gallery, Warehouse Gallery, Syracuse City School District, Very special thanks to the student participants for allowing us into your world.