Strider Patton; an artist, anthropologist and educator was commissioned by the Good Chance Theater & Curran to do an educational mural project based off of The Jungle, a play set in a migrant camp in Calais, France.
Patton has done quite a few educational art projects in the past with United Playaz, an organization that offers after school care focused on violence prevention, creating adult support systems for students.
Creating educational murals is more than just a project for Patton, “I think it just kind of really stems from wanting to bring some good to the world and trying to leverage my strengths and curiosities to do so.”
When the Good Chance Theater reached out to Patton, he immediately reached out to United Playaz to see if they would be interested in having some of their kids be apart of the project.
The project started off with the group getting the chance to go see the show over the span of two weekends.
“When I first came in I knew it was going to be good, because I saw the stage and it wasn’t like any other play, you know? I’ve never actually been to a play, but this seemed different.” Polly said, one of the high school students that attends UP.
It's projects like these that help expose students of all ages to different types of art forms. According to the Brookings Institute, art education funding in the school systems have drastically decreased in correlation to the increase of standardized testing curriculum.
“It is in fact human creativity and us being ‘the maker ape’ that we have built everything around us, we are actually highly dependent on our creativity, so I just see a disconnect… anybody who has seen school arts funding just tank over the decades understands this.”
The Jungle, being shown at the Curran March 26 – May 19, is a play unlike many others. As you walk into the theater you are guided through makeshift walls that are made out of plywood and decorated with graffiti reading, “France is dog life. England good life.”
The stage and the house have been turned into a restaurant, the floor is no longer carpeted but you walk on earth. The ceiling has been brought down lower with a canvas material and the lights are dim to give it a very intimate atmosphere.
There are no longer theater seats but benches and pillows for the audience to sit on. Some sit at restaurant tables that also act as the stage for the actors. Some sit on pillows along the side of the room that also acts as a stage.
Michelle, a high school student at UP, had the opportunity to sit in the restaurant during the play. “I got to sit on the lower side, the experience for me was super cool, because I was actually in it. I felt like I lived through it and felt everything throughout the whole play.”
The play follows the self-governing refugee community known as the Jungle. It follows the stories of how the refugees came to the Jungle and their journey to try and go on further. It brings in the politics and political barriers that these refugees had to overcome and how they did so. It humanizes a crisis that is so often times dehumanized.
“I really feel like plays like this gets people who have real information as to how things are and how human it really is and how it’s a human problem,” says Moses Sesay who plays Mustafa in the play.
After the kids got the chance to see the show, Patton then hosted a couple workshops at UP where he had the kids come up with words that described some of the themes that were present in the play.
Based off of those themes they came up with, they then were to drew symbols that represented those themes.
The three themes that they finally narrowed down to were; home, safety and movement. Which Patton took and created three panels each focusing on one of the themes and the incorporating some of the kids ideas they had drawn out.
“[On] one of the panel's was the map of the refugees traveling, with a person's face, and the border line,” Infiniti, a high school student from UP explained. “And then the other one was a tent [that] says 'home,' showing the cliffs they have to cross, the city that they are getting to, and the sand they have to walk on. And then the middle [panel] is showing all the different religions and how they traveled, like a life vest, because they had to cross the water to get to where they wanted to be.”
The panels will be on display outside the theater while it is closed as they take down the set of The Jungle and prepare for their next show.
“The process has, like all projects, had really challenging moments and then really fulfilling moments and I couldn’t be happier with the final turnout, the artwork, the design its meaningful and touching and great,” Patton said, “I think having the kids who saw the show here and then got to come help paint. To see them look at the final product and feel very proud and excited is just the best part, so [I am kind of ] on a high right now.”