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Yael Fishman admits she never uses bookmarks to keep her place in a book, so “half the time I forget whereI am.” But the sixth grader hopes that the kids who use the bookmark she has designed for Montgomery County Public Libraries “will grow up to like reading” as much as she does. Eleven of her fellow students at Mario Loiederman Middle School and 12 students at Wheaton High School also created original bookmarks, most of them bilingual, that have been printed and distributed to all branches of Montgomery County Public Libraries. The students were participants in the Multicultural Bookmarks Project, an after-school program that took place at Loiederman Middle School and Wheaton High School last fall.
The project was conceived and taught by Artivate teaching artist Leila Cabib, a professional cartoonist, illustrator and animator. “I was teaching a series of animation workshops at various Montgomery County public libraries,” says Cabib. “The children who attended my workshops represented many different cultures.
I thought it would be fun to have kids create bookmarks that not only promote literacy, but also represent the diverse cultures of their community. I felt that for the kids, designing the bookmarks would be an opportunity to express their creativity and their pride in their culture, and for the library patrons, the bookmarks would be a kind of welcome sign as well as an introduction to the libraries’ many resources and services, which are printed on the back of each bookmark.” Montgomery County Public Libraries agreed to share in the cost of printing the bookmarks. Cabib, partnering with Artivate, was awarded a Wheaton Cultural Project Grant from the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County to partially fund the program, and secured additional support from Art4Moore and the Montgomery Art Association.
Like Kyra McDonald, a Loiederman sixth grader, who says that reading and art “are the two greatest loves of my life,” the students shared a passion for books and drawing. They were also eager to work on a real-world, professional project with a client, an intended audience, and a final, printed product that would benefit their community. For Baltazar Herrera, a sophomore at Wheaton High School, the thought of having his artwork go out into the world is “pretty cool, ‘cause no one’s ever really seen my drawings, just my friends and my family.”
Each student chose a quotation about books or reading to illustrate. Several students came up with their own quotations. Fourteen of the 24 bookmarks are bilingual: in Spanish and English, as well as Chinese, Hebrew, Hindi, Tagalog and Nepali. The students created pencil sketches, traced them onto bristol board, and completed their drawings with pen and ink and watercolor pencils. Several professional local artists visited the workshops to show their artwork to the students and discuss their methods and experiences.
Arts Content Specialist Connie Ely, who teaches visual art at Loiederman, says, “The Multicultural Bookmark Project enabled the students to really think about their own culture and to create a design that would visually challenge them in how they want to promote this part of their identity to our diverse community. This project was a unique opportunity for students to learn new art skills and to think and communicate as an artist during the whole process. “ Wheaton High School visual art teacher Patricia Broda praised the program for giving students the chance to experience “what it is like to be an illustrator.”
The students’ original artwork is on display at the Wheaton Interim Library, 2400 Arcola Avenue, through June 30. A reception will be held at the library, which is currently located in the Wheaton Volunteer Rescue Squad building, on Thursday, May 18, from 6:30 to 7:30 PM. The reception will be open to the public.
An audio slideshow about the project may be viewed at https://youtu.be/Esv3tjL6rBI
Artivate was founded in 1995 in response to the demand for high quality, ethnically diverse cultural arts programs in our schools. Throughout our 20+ year history we have remained constant in our goal to bring the arts to people where they are. Today, we reach hundreds of thousands of participants each year with performances, workshops and residencies taught by our carefully vetted and highly skilled teaching artists, who open doors to different cultures and learning experiences.