Arkansas Art Teacher Helps Students Showcase Their Identity With Custom Masks

A strong majority of identity formation takes place during the crucial years of teenage development. It’s the time a young person spends in high school that will greatly impact parts of their personality, sense of self, individuality and even their connections to others. Many might not consider how impactful it is for a high school teacher to place so much importance on students developing a positive self-identity, but we believe the unique identity curriculum from Brianna Peterson, an art teacher at Bryant High School, is truly changing young lives during the pandemic.

Brianna takes part in Thea’s Arts Reconstruction program, which provides summer professional development for high school art teachers seeking to expand their visual arts training. When teachers were able to gather in the summer of 2019, Brianna received training for cyanotype, a photographic printing process that produces a cyan-blue print. Her classroom then received supplies and materials to help support cyanotype as part of the curriculum both last school year and for the current school year as well. 

To help students have access to masks (PPE) as well as inspire students to highlight what makes them individuals through art, Brianna instructed students to create masks using the cyanotype process to showcase selected symbols on the exterior of the masks. Her main objective was this: Students will apply knowledge of symbolism in order to identify characteristics of themselves and what they view as significant in their lives. 

The multi-week curriculum allowed students the opportunity to choose symbols and execute the development of the symbols using cyanotype. Once the fabric was ready, Brianna also taught her students how to sew their masks—many students hadn’t learned this particular skill yet as young adults. The result was a success! Brianna’s students now wear their masks with pride knowing they hold key symbols to represent who they are during this challenging time. 

Thea Foundation will continue to share highlights from Arkansas teachers who are going above and beyond to provide students with unique creative learning opportunities. We are proud to support many teachers like Brianna who are working tirelessly to ensure students’ individual needs are met, including how they communicate their identity and develop their skills for self-expression.

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