Art and Activism at Yerba Buena Gardens | Saint Joseph Notre Dame High School


Art and Activism at Yerba Buena Gardens

Ms. Rodriguez’ AP Language and Composition class has been studying the different ways authors convey a message, and how different styles evoke a specific emotional appeal within an audience. To explore this topic further, the class took a field trip to visit San Francisco's Yerba Buena Gardens. The class worked with teaching artist Adam Odesse-Rubin to learn about Augusto Boal's Theater of the Oppressed, which emphasized the use of drama as social engagement to empower vulnerable populations in Latin America. They engaged in empathy-building exercises and learned how art can build bridges of understanding between people.
Rebecca Rochlin ’17 said, “Because our fourth unit in AP Language encompassed art both as rhetoric and as a means of social activism, Ms. Rodriguez wanted us to witness both firsthand. Through listening to the guest speaker, our class learned how art can exemplify expression and personal thought, as well as build bridges of understanding. The speaker told us he worked at a theater camp in which Israeli and Palestinian teens reenacted the other group's stories and hardships. By viewing each other from an alternative perspective, both parties recognized their similarities.”

After touring the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial at the gardens, the class then visited the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts galleries, a celebrated museum displaying works of activism in the modern age. The class enjoyed the interactive exhibits and learned about current issues in the Bay Area. Their lesson was to rhetorically analyze the artwork as a form of social engagement, and observe how layout, color, video, drawing or words are many ways to communicate a message and cause the viewer to feel a certain way.

The trip tied into the class’ fourth quarter study of Art as Rhetorical Expression, when students examine the ways that artists, writers, speakers use fiction and other artistic expressions for social messaging.

Emily Prislin ’17 shared, “As writers we have developed an understanding of how important rhetorical strategies are to convey a certain message to your audience.  In both the outdoor activity and inside of the museum, we connected how art, technological pieces, as well as drawings, are a meaningful way to make a statement or convey one's perspective. I genuinely enjoyed this field trip, and it opened my eyes to what is going on in the world around me, as well as how artists are able to convey these serious topics in such monumental and thoughtful art displays.”