In January 2015, during Ganzeer‘s residency as part of Bryn Mawr College’s Creative Dissent Exhibit, the Egyptian street artist visited two art classes taught by Harmony Thompson at Northeast High School. He discussed his art-making process and encouraged the students to use language and symbols that express issues of importance to them, to address difficult situations of “the elephant in every room.” Ganzeer’s presentation drew in the students and captured their interest. As art teacher Thompson remarked:
Guest-artists like Ganzeer do a wonderful job of getting the students to open up, as well as providing them with an example of a positive role model. Ganzeer was amazing in his capacity to open cultural dialogue on sensitive issues. He was both a mirror (he reflected their identities back to them) and a window (he provided them a look into another culture).
In the three weeks following Ganzeer’s visit, art teacher Thompson guided the students in a project where they learned print-making techniques and took the time to think about their message, how best to convey it using text and image. Inspired by Ganzeer’s work, they created powerful art that expressed issues they care deeply about, ranging from police brutality, gun violence, child abuse, and gay rights to healthy lifestyles and protection of the environment. Art teacher Thompson was amazed by their passion and the impact of the project, as she later noted:
We have to make things in the classroom relevant to the students’ lives. This last project did just that. Students who have acted out in the past and have not been engaged were so much more involved in this printmaking project. It was amazing to see!. . . We have to teach kids how to communicate in non-violent ways. They have not learned how to understand or negotiate differences constructively, which means that they often become very frustrated when they are required to discuss sensitive issues. They will need actual tools for approaching differences as they get older. The arts are so necessary to help them navigate complex realities.