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UNITY: Foundation recognizes project

Unity Project goes up at Arlington High on Sept. 11, 2017. / Marjorie Howard photo


The Arlington Education Foundation has recognized the Unity public-art project as our Dawn Moses Memorial Grant for the 2016-2017 year.

Matthew Janger, Arlington High School principal, reported Wednesday, Oct. 18, that each year the foundation's board gives special recognition to the Innovations in Education grant that most embodies creativity, rigor and commitment to the students and teachers of Arlington.

By recognizing annually an outstanding innovations grant, the foundation honors Moses, a former foundation board member who died in 2012.


UPDATED, Oct. 18: The Unity Project went up in September as a local art force countering the memories of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The photo  by Marjorie Howardshows it going up on Sept. 11, 2017.  See before and after shots of the project >>

William McCarthy, assistant AHS principal, on Thursday, Sept. 14, called the project "an outstanding success, using over 30 miles of yarn to demonstrate our connections with one another on so many levels .... It was a great exercise in community building ...."

"Unfortunately, the 30 miles of yarn also absorbed an incredible amount of rain, which ultimately exceeded the weight limits of the stakes and posts, causing it to collapse this evening. This was not an act of vandalism, just physics." 

On Monday, Sept. 18, in a post titled "Unity Project is Gone, but not forgotten," Principal Matt Janger wrote:

"Thanks to everyone who helped with the AHS Unity Project last week. Over 30 miles of yarn were woven together to produce a beautiful web representing our diversity and our interconnectedness.

"Today, student volunteers wound up the yarn to use weaving items for donation.

"Thank you to Michael Byrne and Joanna Begin for bringing this opportunity to AHS."

Information provided earlier: 

The public will see 32 PVC pipes, each with an identifier, are set up in a circle. As you approach the instillation, participants will get a ball of yarn and will be invited to wrap a strand around each pole with which they identify. 

As participation increases, the interconnected yarn forms a canopy, demonstrating how everyone is unique, and yet also connected with others.

A brochure about the project suggests some ways that people may identify themselves:

I speak more than one language.

I or someone I love struggles with depression.

As LGBTQIA or as straight.

I live with a disability or chronic illness.

My family's country of origin is important to me.

Background about the effort

Based on the application for AEF funding, Byrne reported, every AHS student and teacher have been invited to participate.

As to the effort's innovation, the AEF application says: "Few project are able to involve the entire student body working together toward a positive outcome. This project would do that and would create an interactive public art piece that would be an expression of community and diversity."

As to how the project supplements existing educational programs, the application says: "Arlington High School has a district goal concerning climate and culture which includes creating safe and supportive school environments for all students.

"The recently established Voices United Project has trained students to help address healthy interactions and climate at the school. Several student groups already in existence will be included.

"GBSOCAN Club [Greater Boston Students of Color Achievement Network] engages students form a range of racial and ethnic backgrounds in conversation on issues of racism, intolerance, discrimination and allied behavior. The GSA, Student Government and any other student groups will be invited to participate."

What will happen to the Unity Project after Sept. 18?

"This is a project that could be duplicated with most of the materials reused for future installations," the application says. To do that, "new yarn would likely be needed. We envision this being something that could easily work for all levels of school children."

Video

For more information, watch the video by student Laura Kirchner >> 

Read the brochure >> 

Janger told parents about this project Monday, Sept. 4: "As we welcome our students and staff to school this fall, AHS is committed to 'learning, connecting, and caring' as a 'safe, supporting, nurturing' community. We are planning to kick off the year with an installation on the AHS lawn called the Unity Project. This project creates a physical demonstration of how our diversity can weave together into an inclusive and beautiful community."

The installation has been made possible through a grant of $1,100, awarded last spring by the Arlington Education Foundation

The Unity Project was created in 2016 by Nancy Belmont, the CEO and chief inspiration officer at Vessence Corp. The brochure about the project says, "She felt compelled, as a response to the divisiveness we're seeing around the world, to create a community project that promotes human connection, an appreciation of diversity and a realization that we all have something in common." 


This news announcement was published Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. Updated Sept. 9, to add background; Sept. 11, to add photo; and Sept. 15, to add effects of rain, as well as Oct. 18, to add honor.

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