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Amundsen Turns Itself Inside Out for Public Art Exhibit

 Amundsen teachers and students are featured in a temporary public art installation.
Amundsen: Inside Out
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LINCOLN SQUARE — Go ahead, walk all over Jorie Malone.

A third-year teacher at Amundsen High School, Malone is one of 71 faculty, staff members and students whose portrait is part of a public art installation unveiled last week outside the school, 5110 N. Damen Ave. It's impossible for pedestrians to avoid the exhibit — the poster-sized photos have been glued to the sidewalk.

"It's obviously a little strange having your face plastered in the community," said Malone, who teaches English and English as a Second Language.

The unconventional gallery was spearheaded by Chicago Teachers: Inside Out as part of the global Inside Out project founded by French street artist JR. Inside Out encourages people to make a statement about a particular cause through the use of large scale black-and-white portraits.

Amundsen Puts Its Best Face Forward
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DNAinfo/Patty Wetli

Amundsen is the second Chicago public school to receive the CTIO treatment; the first was Bowen High School in 2013.

"Our hope is to get people talking about the positive role that teachers play in our schools and beyond," said CTIO organizer Lauren Bell, a former high school English teacher who now works as an instructor at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

In the wake of the 2012 Chicago Teachers Union strike, Bell and others saw the need to better connect schools with their surrounding communities by essentially turning the schools inside out, revealing the faces behind the brick facades.

"We want to help bring people into what's hapenning in our schools," she said.

Amundsen was a natural choice for the project because of the administration's efforts to change public perception of the school, according to Bell.

When CTIO approached Amundsen about Inside Out, Kristi Eilers, assistant principal, immediately recognized the potential, she said.

"I thought it was a great opportunity to get a message out about Amundsen and for people to see what amazing individuals we have inside these walls," said Eilers.

Amundsen's one request: That the portraits shouldn't be limited to teachers, but include students as well.

"A lot of people don't know the diversity we have among our students," Eilers explained.

Bell shot the black-and-white photos, and the resulting images show a school community comprised of all ages, genders and ethnicities, said Malone.

"I feel like they're very genuine images, they really capture people's personalities," she said.

To go along with their photos, teachers were asked to contribute "belief statements" that encapsulate their approach to education and life.

"People can see a face, and also what we think," said Malone. "It's one thing to see words, it's one thing to see images. Seeing them together is more powerful."

Amundsen's Inside Out exhibit is designed to be temporary — the portraits are affixed with a water-based paste.

"We're hoping it'll last a couple of weeks," said Bell, "but if it rains, it might go sooner."