Each Small Learning Community (SLC) at Berkeley High School (BHS) is unique for its own reason. Arts and Humanities Academy (AHA) focuses on all the arts, and one of its biggest annual events is the exhibition held to showcase the students’ work that took place on February 12 at the Kala Art Institute on San Pablo Avenue.
AHA junior, Iree Cook’s group, was assigned to make a panel about the Black Lives Matter Movement. On the top of their panel were the three founders of the movement, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, and below was the Black Lives Matter fist with places where police brutality has occurred. Underneath the fist, there were three victims of police brutality, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner, whose stories were shared through Twitter, launching the movement. “If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think Black Lives Matter would be what it is today,” said Cook. On the bottom of the panel, there was a graph with the number of black people killed by police in the US. All of the parts on the panel were pieces of wood that had been carved by a laser cutter.
Tacy Prins Woodlief, a junior in AHA, made a panel about the unsung heroes of the Civil Rights Movement. It had five leaders of the movement who are not recognized for their work. “Each of these people has an intersexual identity and that’s part of the reason that they were unsung in their movements because intersexuality wasn’t valued the way it is today,” said Prins Woodlief.
Her group used a variety of materials including laser-cut wood, fake flowers, and fabric. Other pieces Prins Woodlief made were a self-portrait using colored pencils of herself in drag, a reduction linocut about the Compton’s Cafeteria Riots, and multiple earrings that were sold at the exhibition. Her favorite part of the AHA art program is “finding ways to use your art to make a statement.”
AHA’s art exhibition couldn’t have happened without the teachers behind it. AHA senior Jesse Vergara-Garrison said they’re “always there to help you out.”
The AHA teachers feel the same way about the students. “I hope they know that I am very proud of them,” said US History teacher Shannon Erby. Erby also works in the multilingual program. She has been working at BHS for 14 years and in AHA for 13 years.
She tries to incorporate art into all the projects she assigns to her students and collaborate with art teachers, however, it tends to only be visual arts. The reason she became an AHA teacher is because of Miriam Klein Stahl, a co-founder of AHA. Stahl has been working at BHS for 25 years, and she founded AHA in 2006. She teaches visual art classes to all four grades. Stahl likes to bring Bay Area artwork into the classroom to inspire her students.
Stahl also exposes her students to guest artists, galleries, and other things that may spark inspiration. In January, Stahl organized a mural of admirable women at Thousand Oaks Elementary School. The fifth graders there told her about women they respected, and she brought a group of BHS students to paint a mural of them. “It’s really important to me that youth continue the value of working with your hands,” said Stahl.