FORT BRAG, California – A public art project was underway on the old fence bordering the driveway to Purity Market. This project will add to Fort Bragg’s public mural plan. At least eight of the city’s streets already have finished products. This fence artistically presents the creative ideas of students attending Noyo High School, a separate alternative educational program for local high school students.
The art project will also fulfill an important part of the school’s mission to immerse its students in the community as a whole. By its very nature, public art is immediately accessible to everyone. Although unfinished at the time, curious people traveled daily to communicate with the students and support their efforts.
Financially supported by the Arts Council of Mendocino County and local artists, property owners, companies and organizations. Fort Bragg’s The Alleyway Art Project is directed by Leah Morsel, a board member of the Arts Council. Morsell took Noyo High School teacher Eric Forrester and his students on a tour of the alley’s finished art as a conclusion to a unit that Forrester has just taught in art therapy and mental health.
Morsel offered students the opportunity to pursue the next available public art project, including Tyvek and a chain link fence. The offer represents everything Forrester has developed over time with his students. They could artistically present their diversity to the community and become a visually inclusive part of it. Tyvek proved too difficult to obtain. Old banners will be just as resistant to weathering and will provide the color needed to improve patterns.
The group was placed on the fence marking the back of the Purity Market parking lot. Noyo High School students then designed ambitious, handmade patterns to be woven into 470 square feet of chain links. Even more challenging, the templates were created with hand-cut strips of recycled banners donated by Braggadoon Signs & Graphics at Fort Bragg.
None of the five students knew what the art of a chain link fence looked like or how to design it. They learned by doing. The art project became an example of the Big Picture Learning mission at the alternative school. “This project is a really big job for the students,” Forrester said. The students knew that their goal was to create something for the audience to enjoy. In addition, they experimented with art as a form of communication, a new way of interacting with others. Although teacher Eric Forrester started the project with fourteen volunteers, he led a group of five who remained engaged for the past two weeks.
Big Picture Learning provides an alternative teaching method for students who want to be at the center of their learning. Students engage in the real world through internships, community projects, and part-time work. The school staff helps them to design a curriculum according to their interests. Of course, academic classes are also included in the daily instructions. After graduation, students can continue their education through a federal program of courses designed to lead to meaningful employment and support.
The students working on the project definitely had real-life experience while working on their projects. Forrester noted that people come to ask about the fence provided “immediate feedback” and “they are not constantly on their phones and looking for feedback there.” The students saw how a friendly local business could intervene and provide materials to get them started. They learned what it takes for the efforts, cooperation and consistency of classmates to do the practical work. They also learned that not everyone appreciates the vision expressed in some of their art.
This art project remained ongoing for some time and students returned to work on it when they had the time. Fans were still regular visitors, but the nights made the project vulnerable to vandalism. Unfortunately, the students returned one day to find that a section of the fence was devoid of design and the banner strips lay in a pile. Their teacher told them, “We will not let this defeat us. We will overcome it. ” The students saw the vandalism as someone’s response to the message woven into this part of the fence. Someone had taken the time to tear off the BLM banner strips referring to Black Lives Matter.
Cindy Acosta, who has worked on the project from the beginning, sees the vandalism as intentional. “It was upsetting. That makes me angry, “she said.” I don’t understand how people can do such a thing, “she added. She said:” I think people should just watch their work. If they don’t like something, they shouldn’t do they say nothing about it. They just have to leave. “
Acosta tried to make sense of the destructive behavior, but was troubled by an experience that contradicted what the project was for her classmates. “There are such people here,” she concluded. “In fact, you can’t change their minds. “I think they should be able to leave things alone instead of destroying what we have done,” she added.
Now she continued to weave ribbons through the chain links while her classmates worked on various designs down the fence line. Her artistic vision was a scene of the sun over steep mountains. Anyone who passes by and looks at the fence can now clearly see that it has accomplished its mission. In the vulnerable, open fencing area, Acosta has given the community a small part of itself, woven with faith and deliberate care. Her classmates did the same.