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RAW students’ work featured at Flying Horse Outdoor Sculpture Exhibit

Young artists from Raw Art Works install their "Seat at the Table" piece at Flying Horse Outdoor Sculpture Exhibit at Pingree School in South Hamilton: Carlos Alas; Michaiah Fernandes (lead artist); Penelope Gravelle (lead artist).

The ninth annual Flying Horse Outdoor Sculpture Exhibit on the campus of Pingree School in South Hamilton is drawing raves. The exhibit features pieces by renowned artists whose work has been seen in some of the world’s most prestigious museums and has a home in many private collections.  

The most startling sculpture of all at Pingree? “Everyone Deserves a Seat at the Table,” a thought-provoking art installation created by a group of Lynn high schoolers at Raw Art Works in Lynn.

Huh?

“Many have told me the RAW work is the most impressive piece in the show,” said curator Judith Klein. “It is the only student piece in the exhibit, and it has so much meaning and provocation, in a good way. It is educational, authentic, socially conscious. We are very lucky to have it in the show.”

Jason Cruz, clinical supervisor at RAW, the Lynn-based art program with the mission to “ignite the desire to create and confidence to succeed in underserved youth,” said the piece was inspired by a quote from Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman senator and candidate for U.S. president: “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”

Nearly four dozen students, under the guidance of mentor Cruz, built a table and chairs from reclaimed wood. They adorned it with the names of people who came before as role models in the fight for civil rights.

Taking the lead in the project were Lynn high schoolers in Cruz’s “They Look Like Me” (TLLM) group: Penny Gravell, Michaiah Fernandes, Carlos Alas, Kai Larson and Athena Bonner.

Alexandra Ashley, RAW’s development operations manager, said in creating the piece, RAW artists reflected and responded to Chisholm’s quote, using their own words and imagery. “The piece was inspired by the belief that all people should be seen, heard, and respected. It artistically represents the personal stories of those who have strived and persevered to create opportunities for today’s youth to have a seat at the table in America,” said Ashley.

Made up of discarded and reclaimed wood, paint, and concrete, the finished black-and-white piece is a 4-foot-by 6-foot table with four chairs. One chair stands out; it has only three legs. “This chair speaks to the struggle it takes to get to the table,” said Ashley.

“The ideas came from my brain, the soul and spirit came by collaborations with the kids. This was not Jason saying ‘Do this,'” said Cruz. “This art piece challenges folks, as it deals with greater issues like race and class. Lynn youth have a lot to say.” It was done quickly, in three weeks, due to a time crunch. Two weeks ago it was installed in four hours on a brutally hot day.

A group of middle school boys who contributed to the project shared their thoughts about setting this “Table”: “Every person in the world is special”; “When I don’t feel welcomed, I feel unimportant and useless”; “I want to be able to SPEAK at the table”; “Someone not making room for me at the table, makes me want to STAND at that table”; “Bringing my own seat means giving myself a new opportunity”; “When I see someone who is not welcomed, I say take MY seat.”

Klein said several Lynn youngsters are students at Pingree, and that RAW and the independent secondary day school have had an excellent relationship for several years. “RAW clearly opens up these kids to respond to art on a visceral and emotional level, more so than any other group of students I’ve spent time with. That’s very unusual at that age. The mentors and the students at Raw Art Works are to be commended.”

The Flying Horse Outdoor Sculpture Exhibit is free and open to the public seven days a week during daylight hours through Nov. 4. The public is also invited to a reception with the artists on Sunday, Sept. 16, 1 p.m., on the Pingree campus. Cruz and the RAW artists are expected to attend, to talk about “Seat at the Table” and answer questions. For more information: pingree.org/sculpture-show.

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