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Hundreds Of CPS Students Show Off Artwork In First-Of-Its-Kind Expo

 Seventh graders Jasmine Thomas (left) and Mariana Coffer present their
Seventh graders Jasmine Thomas (left) and Mariana Coffer present their "Stepping Over Racism” project.
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DNAinfo/Andrea V. Watson

ENGLEWOOD — Mariana Coffer and Jasmine Thomas painted and decorated a woman's shoe to symbolize the steps Rosa Parks took in fighting for equal rights for African-Americans.

The two 13-year-olds were among nearly 400 students from Englewood who displayed their art projects for family and community members to see Tuesday. The first-of-its-kind Chicago Public Schools Network 11 Art Expo featured student artwork from 24 schools.

The event, which also included student performances and drawing workshops led by Dyett High School for the Arts, took place at Hamilton Park Cultural Center, 513 W. 72nd St.

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CPS Network Chief Megan Hougard said it was powerful and inspiring to see all of their work in one place.

“For them to see each other in this way — as artists, performers — and to see the richness in the community, it’s really inspiring,” she said.

This was the first Network 11 Art Expo. [DNAinfo/Andrea V. Watson]

A Dyett student shows a Southside Occupational Academy student art skills. [Photo provided by Megan Hougard]

Wentworth Elementary students, Traziya Harrell, 8, Jamie Thomas, 10, and Saniah Hendrix, 9, painted a small rocking chair with “warm” colors as they called it. The chair had earth tone stones glued around its edges.

“It’s where you sit to feel calm and at peace,” Jamie said.

Traziya Harrell, 8 (left), Jamie Thomas, 10, and Saniah Hendrix, 9. [DNAinfo/Andrea V. Watson]

Saniah said she helped paint a chair, a project she called “fun.”

Seventh-graders Mariana and Jasmine presented painted women's shoes as part of their “Stepping Over Racism” project. One heel was glued on top of a bus to represent Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat to a white person.

"Stepping Over Racism” was created by seventh-graders Jasmine Thomas and Mariana Coffer [DNAinfo/Andrea V. Watson]

“It represents how she stood for what she believes in,” Thomas said. “She can also represent stepping over obstacles. I hope it sends a message that we need to do the same, we need to stand up for the things we believe in.”

The other shoes on the table had a slightly different meaning, Mariana said.

“There are steps to success so there aren’t any elevators,” she said.

Sherwood Elementary student Ashley Crutcher, 14, sketched a self portrait of herself. She took a photo of herself and then looked in the mirror. She was encouraged by her teacher to draw what she saw.

“Art to me means my individuality and bringing out my creativeness,” she said. “I get to be myself and express that through art.”

Ashely Crutcher is a student at Sherwood Elementary. [DNAinfo/Andrea V. Watson]

Wentworth art teacher Krystal Grover-Webb said that art can be a positive distraction for many of her students who are dealing with a lot of issues outside of school. Art also teaches them lifelong lessons, she said.

“When students learn they can take something and change it, or make it better, and collaborate with others to [bring a vision to life], these are lessons they will carry through life,” Grover-Webb said.

All of the artwork will remain on display through Wednesday evening. Students from some of the high schools will perform at a closing ceremony that evening from 6-7 p.m. It’s open to the public.