Sisters Meta Elembe, center, and Jeanette Elembe talk with humanities teacher Caleb Leino about a digital print by Abdulkadir Ahmed, not pictured, during the “Consider This: Lewiston” art exhibit at Lewiston High School on Thursday. At right is a digital image by Omar Osman, the president of the sophomore class at the school. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — The painting shows a woman’s head in silhouette and inside it, a rocket ship is blasting through an unknown galaxy. It’s a striking image and it means different things to different people.

Which is entirely the point at an event like “Consider This: Lewiston,” a first-time Lewiston High School program meant to celebrate, not just diversity in the physical world, but diversity of thought.

“You have a universe of possibilities around you and different outcomes and different paths that you can take,” said Ciah Brees, the LHS junior who created the painting, “but only you can choose which path you want to take and which outcome you see in your future.”

That’s how the artist herself sees it. But a notebook sitting beneath the painting is filled cover to cover with different interpretations from Brees’ classmates. Each one sees something a little different in the painting.

“I think it shows where people’s minds can go if they want to,” is how one student interpreted it. “If you use your brain to the full potential, you can go to far places.”

All around the room Thursday night were paintings, stories and a multitude of opinions on each piece of art. That kind of expansive thinking was on full display, and that’s just what organizers had in mind when the school teamed up with the Maine Humanities Council to bring the event to fruition.

“We’re working on improving our school culture and being inclusive and bringing in a sense of community,” said Jerome Bennett, program officer with the council. “So this initiative is really positioned to do just that – to strengthen relationships between community and school and teachers and students.”

One group of students was asked to create paintings. The finished products were then shipped to the English Department where students wrote stories about what they saw in the artwork. At the same time, some of the students wrote stories and the artists were asked to create paintings based on what they read.

“And that,” Bennett said, “is how they created the exhibit.”

Just around the corner from Brees’ painting is a pair of paintings featuring one man. That man, as it happens, is James Ford, the school’s restorative practice coordinator. The two paintings are vastly different. One student painted Ford and his brothers and used the Maine map to color the images.

“I purposely placed the state motto throughout their faces,” wrote Deanna Ehrhardt, an artist and teacher from Bath, “to emphasize Maine and the daily racist encounters its people of color must endure.”

The other painting was created with a darker mood and doesn’t show Ford’s face at all.

“I chose to show James without his face, which created a certain amount of anonymity to the figure,” wrote Laura Manchester, an artist based out of Lisbon Falls. “This speaks to the idea that this could be an experience that many black men and women could go through.”

The event was well attended, with dozens braving the frigid night to come to the school. As they roamed the room and examined the art, the school jazz band played stirring music in the hall.

Bennett said they hope to make “Consider This” a yearly event.

Sophomore Emily Fournier would be OK with that. Both a writer and an artist, she was tasked with taking a story from the English Department – about a migrant’s experiences coming to the U.S. – and expressing her thoughts in paint.

“It’s difficult,” Fournier said, “but it was a nice challenge. I like that.”

Ford, an African American who has lived in Maine for 39 years, said the school does a particularly good job at educating its students about racism and encouraging dialog.

“I love the Lewiston High School – its diversity and its willingness to shift behaviors to work with the current student population,” he wrote for the event webpage. “I see my role as helping to facilitate that shift – finding ways to bring the school closer to the community.”

Michael Wingfield of Portland reads the artist statement beneath “Battle of the Bridges,” a digital image by Dominick Colon during the “Consider This: Lewiston” art exhibit at Lewiston High School on Thursday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Lewiston High School senior Jacob Morin, left, and his mother, Charlotte Morin, play music with Michael Wingfield of Portland during the “Consider This: Lewiston” art exhibit at the high school on Thursday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Lewiston High School Principal Jake Langlais gives “Three Bros. On a Train” a thumbs-up as he passes them in the hallway during the “Consider This: Lewiston” art exhibit at the high school Thursday. The Three Bros., from left, are  Keanen Bowden, Connor Lariviere and Zach Morin. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo


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