Art Collaboration Channels Non-Sibi Spirit

“My brick is going to live next to me on my bed at home,” exclaimed a girl from the Lawrence Boys and Girls Club when a teacher asked her what she wanted to do with her newly-decorated brick.

The decoration project was part of a Non-Sibi Weekend collaboration between Andover, Lawrence High School, the Lawrence Boys and Girls Club and Chris “Daze” Ellis, Andover’s Edward E. Elson Artist in Residence, all of whom came together to create an art installation made of a collection of decorated bricks.

The day kicked off with introductions and short stories about each participant’s name, including a hidden meaning, a nickname and a story attached to the nickname.

Ellis, who goes by “Daze,” explained that he chose his “street tag” by trying different combinations of letters until something stuck. He showed images of his name on subway cars, explaining that his career began with graffiti art on the streets.

Students were then given a mini-lesson and model on how to create graffiti lettering, including ideas for details and styles. Writing prompts such as “I am from…” and “If I ruled the world, I would…” were handed out to spur ideas. Each participant was then given a brick to decorate. The goal of the project was to show the influence of graffiti as publicly displayed writing and to inspire students to think about the power of words and symbols. The designs on the bricks included flowers, names and words meaningful to the artists.

In the late afternoon, members of both the Andover community and the public gathered to see the unveiling of the finished bricks. Students placed their bricks together and created a single organized sculpture that incorporated everyone’s brick.

“Looking at [all of the bricks together] was cool because, although each table had their own arrangement and we each had our own brick, the combination [of our work] is pretty amazing,” said Ryan Miller ’14. “It really impresses me the way they all complement each other.”

Students, teachers and guests gathered in a circle to exchange opinions and discuss the newly-created art installation.

“[This project was] really about people coming together and going through the same process to create something that was beautiful in the end,” said Megan Gatton ’17. “You’re working with other people from all sorts of different backgrounds and age groups to create an end product that didn’t have your name on it.”

“It’s important for Andover students to recognize that it’s not just Non Sibi, a day of service, because it’s a required activity,” said John Little ’15. “It’s a day you enjoy, and you do it with a great group of people you wouldn’t originally have interacted with. Students need that to get out of the ‘Andover Bubble.’”

Christine Jee, Education Associate for School and Community Collaborations at the Addison, also contributed to the discussion of community.

“We like to think of it more as a community gathering than a community service day,” Jee said. “The [Addison Gallery of American Art is] really lucky to work with all these different communities, [and bringing] them together at one place at one time is really special to us.”

Richard Gorham, who teaches at Lawrence High School, works at Andover and volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club, ended the discussion by stating how exciting this moment was for him to see all of these communities come together as one.

“Our goal today was to use art to build a community, and communities don’t just happen. They have to be built,” Gorham said. “Just look around the circle right now. We have a wide range of ages and personal backgrounds, and yet each of us had a brick. Our bricks are of equal size and equal importance. If we were to take any of the bricks out, our pieces wouldn’t be as good.”