Community Read Driving Fitchburg Mixed-media Art Show
By Chad Garner
Special to the Sentinel & Enterprise
FITCHBURG -- High School English teacher Garrett Zecker is constantly trying to find ways to engage his senior classes with projects to help them understand that everyone plays a big role in building a positive community.
Zecker’s students are currently working on an ambitious project, fueled by the Community Read Program choice of “Everything I Never Told You,” by author Celeste Ng.
The students are using the themes of the book -- hidden lives and struggles invisible to everyone -- to create mixed-media pieces, including form writing, art, sculpture, music, photography, drawing and paintings -- to express their kind of unseen place as members of the community.
The opening reception was held on Saturday at the Fitchburg Art Museum.
“It is an anxious event because my art work will be presented to the community,” said FHS senior Anthony Silverio.
The students’ work will be on display at the Fitchburg Art Museum for the month of March in the community gallery.
“They all have stories and ideas to share, most of which our city is unaware of,” Zecker said. “What better way to do it than by asking them to use the book’s themes to drive whatever creative endeavor they are most comfortable with and displaying it at the center of art and culture in our region? Most people I know have never had a work of art in an art museum, and suddenly here are 45 enthusiastic young men and women from all socioeconomic backgrounds pouring their hearts out in a way that also gets them a major project to put on their resumes.”
Zecker says the project was introduced to students as a way for them to communicate with the community and to shed the borders of silence and throw open the doors to everyone’s personal lives.
“Some of us have struggled with trauma, issues of self-acceptance, race relations with our neighbors, and many other aspects of life that generally remain secret festering wounds between us and our neighbors,” he said. “The goal is to look at the themes of the book and reflect how they see these themes reflected in issues they have personally struggled with that are similar to those the teenager in the novel struggled with. At the very least, they are bearing some aspect of their creativity and existence that many of our neighbors had no idea our students possess.”
Senior Jenna Aubuchon’s short-story project centers around diversity in the city.
“I came up with my project idea for writing a short story based on identity, racial and ethnicity issues in society today by talking about my experience of living in Fitchburg for 17 years and how my high school and city are extremely diverse,” she said. “I thought about how I grew up around so many different people and how it has shaped me into the person I am today, and how discrimination and sexism is portrayed in this book and how it’s just reality and it’s sad that it is true.”
Sophia Mahone painted her project.
“I came up with the idea of my painting by the poem I wrote this summer, it’s an ‘I am’ poem and I think it connects to the book really well,” she said.
In FHS senior Jan Troche Pereira’s poem, he “expressed how I felt about society and how when other kids or adults read the poem they can feel identified or even relate to my poem.”
He added: “Writing is a good way to connect with other people.”
Garner is the public school district’s communications coordinator.