2017-02-23 / Community News

Artist to help civil rights team address exclusion

Biddeford High School’s Civil Rights Team is addressing the issue of inequality thanks to a visit by Maine-based artist and activist Orson Horchler, also known at Pigeon, on Feb. 28. Horchler will work with the team to conceptualize and create a custom art installation that addresses the theme of belonging before co-presenting their work at a school-wide assembly. Students will create a piece that focuses on themselves as Mainers titled, “No More Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Bringing to Light Issues of Inclusion at BHS.”

“We pride ourselves on our school spirit, yet we know some students are still not fully accepted in our community,” wrote the BHS Civil Rights Team in its application. “Often this exclusion happens quietly: muttered comments in the hallway, students who are not elected to student council despite being qualified, hurtful generalizations about ‘those kids.’ As a result, our happy sea of black and orange can hide the more isolated experiences of students who do not fit the norm.”

While Maine is the most homogeneous state in the union, the Biddeford School Department benefits from diversity. More than half (53 percent) of York County’s English language learners attend Biddeford schools; 160 students from nearly 20 countries integrate with Maine natives in all grade levels. The BHS Civil Rights Team will make a piece of art that explicitly acknowledges the contribution that all students bring to the school community, especially students who may not feel like they fully belong. They want students to be able to walk past the art installation and see themselves reflected back.

“I applaud our students for taking the initiative to bring this Maine-based artist to BHS,” said Superintendent Jeremy Ray. “This is an unsettling time for many of our students and it is important they know they belong here. They enrich our curriculum and enhance the quality and diversity of our schools.”

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