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Kite Flying, Art Project Brings Students From Four Schools Together

By Ted Cox | May 19, 2017 6:25pm | Updated on May 22, 2017 8:06am
 Students fly kites with other students' faces and aspirations on them at Franklin Fine Arts Center as part of a four-school art project.
Students fly kites with other students' faces and aspirations on them at Franklin Fine Arts Center as part of a four-school art project.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

OLD TOWN — Can flying a kite bring together students from four very different schools located only a few blocks apart?

That's the goal of an art project that saw the public, private and magnet school students flying kites together Friday, and will come to fruition completely in June.

The schools include: Franklin Fine Arts Center, Chicago Public Schools' only citywide magnet school devoted to arts instruction; Manierre Elementary, a nearby neighborhood school; the private Catherine Cook School and the Catholic Immaculate Conception St. Joseph School.

The schools are doing the project under the guidance of Charlie Branda, owner of Art on Sedgwick, and its artist in residence, Cecil McDonald Jr.

The main element of the project consists of students making kites bearing the face of another student or community member, and including the subject's aspirations. Students joined in flying the kites Friday at Franklin, 225 W. Evergreen Ave., as part of what will turn into the final work.

"This is about getting these students together and trying to make these connections," Branda said Friday as she helped organize the event.

Sixth-graders from Manierre, 1420 N. Hudson Ave., had already interviewed sixth-graders from Catherine Cook, 226 W. Schiller St., and vice versa and they took photos of each other. Those photos were superimposed on the kites along with a representative comment the student made.

Eighth-graders at Franklin, meanwhile, interviewed local residents, including Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th), and again put a representative comment on a kite bearing that person's face.

On Friday, they got together to take a bird's-eye photograph of students holding up the kites, taken from the rooftop of the Franklin gymnasium, then attempted to see if they could fly.

Charlie Branda (left) leads students in posing for a bird's-eye photo taken from the roof of the Franklin gymnasium (DNAinfo/Ted Cox)

Branda said it was all right for the kites to get a little rough treatment during the windy and rainy weather Friday.

"That is part of the beauty of life, that we get tousled about," she said.

Generally, the students found that the kites flew in sort of a corkscrew pattern when trailed behind a running person. Franklin Principal Kurt Jones joined in.

Weather and logistics kept the Manierre students from joining in Friday's element of the art project, but dozens of students from Franklin and Catherine Cook took part and made sure the Manierre students' kites were represented.

McDonald will take photos, video and audio gathered Friday, as well as the original kites, and turn it into an exhibit, "My Street, My Voice, Our Story," to be displayed from 2-5 p.m. June 4 at Art on Sedgwick, located at 1408 N. Sedgwick St. in one of the newly renovated storefronts on the ground floor of the Marshall Field Garden Apartments.

"It's sort of about art, but it's also about being a welcoming space," Branda said, "a way to connect people."

Although Immaculate Conception, 363 W. Hill St., didn't join in the kite project, it will contribute material to the final exhibit, Branda said, in effect serving to bring the schools and their communities together.