This is the artists' statement that Dawn wrote (with some help from her art teacher) regarding the Big Picture ofrenda now at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen:
This ofrenda is dedicated to the memory of the 32 Chicago Public School students who died during the 2006-2007 school year. We want to honor their presence with us, even as time passes. As students, this crisis of violence against youth makes us upset. It’s terrible having this violence around our community. At Big Picture H.S. in Back of the Yards, most students have experienced a violent death of a brother, sister, father, neighbor, or friend. The deaths of the CPS students affect their family deeply and also other students because violence happens to the people we know. The losses of these students change our school environment because it makes us scared and insecure. There should be no reason to be scared to go to school, to take public transportation, or to be out in our community. It bothers us to have so many young students die. These students, no matter what their situations were, should have been future doctors, lawyers, social justice leaders, and had the chance to change our community for the better. Today we honor and remember the 32 students who passed away during the last school year, and their continued presence in our lives as students. In our offering, we created an empty classroom with a symbolic seat for each of the departed students. This represents the absence other students will feel when they are not with us this year. We included school supplies that are essential for daily learning and other things they enjoyed during their lives. We created papel picado with a gold foil star that has a silhouette of a girl or boy representing each student. When we see a star in the sky, we will remember them. We wanted to capture the feeling of sadness and emptiness that their absence has created, and to remember what their lives meant to us while they were among us. Sharing our sadness is part of the process of healing, and we hope that visitors will be inspired to take action the end the violence against youth that continues in Chicago.
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