Education

Using art-making to start conversations with kids about social justice

This image based on a photograph of Angela Davis was created by a three-year-old girl and her father at the January workshop focused on activism. The pair regularly attend story time at the public library.
This image based on a photograph of Angela Davis was created by a three-year-old girl and her father at the January workshop focused on activism. The pair regularly attend story time at the public library.
Courtesy of Hammer Museum

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How can parents talk to young kids about racism and inequality? The Hammer Museum is offering up one answer: to use art. 

In partnership with the Los Angeles Public Library, the museum has launched a series of art-making workshops for kids ages five and up. Drawing on library book collections and museum exhibits, the Art Without Walls events encourage kids to grapple with social justice issues by designing art on themes like racism and activism. 

"I think we’re really addressing a real desire for adults to talk to young ones about some real challenging issues that are being raised at school and playgrounds, that are being raised on the news," said Theresa Sotto, assistant director of academic programs at the Hammer. 

"There's been so much divisiveness in the air and we were really hoping to use art to break down the barriers and be able to talk to our youngest visitors about these issues."

Artist and educator Sandy Rodriguez leads families in art projects that are tied to both museum exhibits and library archives. This month's activity is about combatting racism. It's linked to an installation by artist Kevin Beasley, which is inspired by a photograph of Black Panther co-founder Huey P. Newton seated in a throne-like chair.

Attendees will work to design a backdrop behind a throne, take a seat and express their ideas for defeating racism in their communities.

By partnering with the library, the museum hopes to expose a wider audience to their collections. The program will take place Saturday, in English and Spanish, at the Felipe de Neve Branch of the library and Sunday at the Hammer. 

"Families can really have meaningful experiences together by making art together and producing something that they will then install at their house – on the fridge," Rodriguez said, "while having conversations that are really important for us to discuss as families." 

The series kicked off last month with a workshop focused on activism. More than 100 people showed up at the library and museum, using water colors to design pages in a collective book on the ABCs of activism (A for Angela Davis, B for boycott, etc).

Next month's workshop will revolve around feminism.