HUDSON—School children guided by a teacher and two artists painted a mural titled “HUDSON IS HOME” and unveiled it June 17 as part of giving voice to the Hudson community apart from Warren Street.
At the same time, an electronic sound collage was introduced as a companion to the mural. The mural stands near the northwest corner of State and Second streets, only two blocks from Warren Street but in some ways a world apart. It resulted from a project led by teacher Bridget Smith, artist Louise Smith, and sound artist Victoria Emanuela, with a grant from the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, collaboration with the Hudson City School District (HCSD), and support from the Hudson Housing Authority (HHA) and community. The two Ms. Smiths are not related.
Bridget Smith leads a weekly Expanded Learning Time (ELT) class for fourth and fifth graders at the Montgomery C. Smith Elementary School, where she also teaches kindergarten full time. Her ELT class provides project-based learning experiences to high-achieving students. Every year it does a community project, she said by telephone June 24.
Two years ago, Bridget Smith said, her students made self portraits and had them wheat-pasted on the same wall. But wheat paste does not last long. This year the Ms. Smiths wanted something “more permanent” on the same wall. They decided to paint directly on it.
The wall stands across State Street from Bliss Tower, an income-restricted apartment building. It faces a ball court. Reasons for picking location, Bridget Smith said, include that it is near where many students live and play. To paint the current mural, some students walked there.
A press release for the mural and its companion sound collage says: “We are interested in doing something that has a direct impact on the local people of Hudson and the children who grow up here… Bridget, Louise and Victoria conceptualized this project as a means to illustrate and share… the often unheard voices of Hudson through the eyes of fourth and fifth” graders.
Early this year, Bridget Smith led her ELT class through various activities under the topic Self and City. Some activities focused on environmental justice and environmental racism. Another had groups of students design a city. This project showed how the layout gave some people more access to goods and services than others. Without prompting, the students began talking about how this applies to Hudson.
“Warren Street has all these restaurants, and it’s more visibly appealing, but it’s not accessible to them [my students] because it’s so expensive,” said Bridget Smith. “It’s geared to people from New York City who can afford it. The city is changing, but not in ways that can help [my students].”
At the same time, the Ms. Smiths applied for a grant from the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation to pay for supplies and professional artists. The Foundation’s Hudson Arts and Humanities Fund awarded them the grant “to explore the topics of identity, self, race and community through art and art installation through the local Hudson community,” according to the press release.
In class each student drew an individual picture expressing his or her feelings and hopes regarding this concept, Bridget Smith reported. But for the mural, they needed a “unifying theme.” They settled on silhouettes.
Meanwhile, Ms. Emanuela created a sound collage on the same theme. She and other participants interviewed the ELT students, local families, politicians, HHA staff, Hudson Area Library staff, and others. Most interviews took place in the library on April 23, when all area residents were invited. These interviews contained three questions:
1. Why do you like living in Hudson?
2. What is something you hope for in Hudson’s future?
3. How can people…in the community achieve this?
Ms. Emanuela chopped the responses into sound fragments, mixed the fragments with each other and other sounds (including children playing), and mixed them together into a sound collage.
When it came time to install the mural, Bridget Smith reported, ELT class members stood against the wall in any position they wanted, other students traced their silhouettes on the wall, and the students painted in their silhouettes colors they selected. Above the silhouettes, students painted pictures based on the pictures they had drawn in class. Examples include: a purple cloud imprinted with “KEEP HUDSON SAFE”; and an arch adorned with peace symbols over the word peace. Three eighth grade volunteers helped and participated at several stages.
On June 17, a “great turnout” came for the unveiling of the mural, Nick Zachos, then the interim executive director of HHA, reported.
Ms. Emanuela’s sound collage, according to Bridget Smith, is 17 minutes long, available only electronically, and “beautiful.” It will be accessible through a cell phone by scanning a QR code that will be part of a permanent plaque that should soon be installed there. It can also be found online at:
Bridget Smith said that somewhere off Warren Street but in Hudson, she hopes to do something similar next year.
Here’s who participated
THE FOLLOWING students participated in the Hudson Mural Project.
Fourth graders: Camryn Clark, Macklin DePace, Alicia Dier, Helena Maresco, Remy Ruiz, Makayla Shores, Michael Weaver
Fifth graders: Gavin Abitable, Shania Baker, Victoria Carius, Derrace Carr, Brock Chappinelli, Alena Cortijo
Eighth graders: Nazmun Bhuiyan, Hafasa Chowdhury, Asia Johnson.