Treat others the way you wish to be treated.
This is one of the mantras behind the mask-making lesson, which is the heart of ArtWell’s Art of Growing Leaders program.
At La Salle Academy, over a dozen 7th and 8th-grade girls have gathered each week since October to talk with teaching artists Julia Terry and Kara Rutledge about how taking risks is how you discover what your strengths and weaknesses are, how you discover more about yourself, and how you learn and grow. Taking risks involve having new experiences. At this tender age, the girls are beginning their critically important transition into adulthood. This is a turning point in their development.
To prepare them for the transition, Julia and Kara took each of the girls on a personal journey that involved risk-taking and self-discovery through mask-making. But before they began crafting their masks, they started with a blank paper, pondering the qualities they admired in themselves and others, and also the qualities they wanted to possess in the future. A safe space was created for each student to map out and design the person they wanted to become. They discussed how masks are powerful metaphors for so many things. They can conceal or reveal who you are. The girls opened up and discussed the feelings, thoughts and fears they usually keep hidden. They shared strengths and talents they are normally afraid to share because they don’t want to brag or be told that they don’t possess those qualities. Julia and Kara reinforced that being a girl means that they can be anything.
For many of the girls, mask-making was an experience unlike anything they had ever participated in. The girls were hesitant at first. But teaching artist Julia Terry harnessed the power of mentorship. Some of the 8th grade girls had participated in the program last year and were comfortable with the mask-making process. She paired a 7th grader up with an 8th grader to help guide them in a supportive way. The mentorship angle paid off. Over the next 2 weeks, Julia and Kara witnessed how the older students reached out and cared for the younger students, and how the act of helping each other created a model for how to treat others in a nurturing, kind way. Each girl became completely absorbed with the exercise, smearing Vaseline and laying plaster gauze over her peer’s face carefully and intentionally – treating her with respect – with how she wished to be treated in return.
Next up: Painting the masks! Stay tuned next month to read about the next phase in the mask-making project!