Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Heeding the Call: A Program on Justicemaking for Junior High School Youth

Activity 2: Artists - Head to Toe

Activity time: 15 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Leader Resource 1, Mouth and Foot Paintings, or order prints online
  • One crayon for each youth
  • Masking tape
  • Music player
  • A composition from late in Beethoven's life (Ninth Symphony or String Quartet 14 are possibilities)

Preparation for Activity

  • Have the Beethoven recording ready to play.
  • Be prepared to help the youth re-focus during the coloring section of the activity. There may be giggles as a healthy release for the awkwardness. Allow space for that while also using the questions to re-focus the group, if needed.
  • Optional: Purchase a print from the Mouth and Foot Paintings Association. The quality will be better and you will help a worthwhile organization. You can order note cards, calendars, or prints. Prices range from 10 dollars to 25 dollars. If you use artwork from artists other than Nguyen or Flores, make sure you attribute the correct artists.

Description of Activity

Youth participate in a coloring activity that will help them get closer to understanding an aspect of the lives of differently-abled individuals.

Say, in your own words:

Hearing stories about people's experiences is one way to increase our understanding of the world. There are other ways, too. One other way is to try to experience the world the way other people do. In this activity, I'm going to ask you to experience life as an artist. Here are a couple of the paintings done by artists. (Pass around Leader Resource 1, Mouth and Foot Paintings.) You may ask what these lovely paintings have to do with social justice? They were painted by people who are differently-abled. These artists belong to a group called the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists or mfpa. None of these paintings were done by hand. Tony Nguyen and Onix Flores painted these pictures by holding a brush in either their mouth or their foot. Does that sound hard? Let's see how hard it is.

Guide participants to the art supplies. Let youth know that they will be creating their own piece of art and encourage them to focus not on the end product, but on how it feels to use their bodies differently. Introduce the Beethoven music and ask youth if they know what is special about this composition. (Beethoven composed this toward the end of his life when he was completely deaf.) Ask youth to tape a blank sheet of paper to the wall directly in front of their face. Then choose a crayon and use their mouth to draw a picture of whatever they like. They might try to replicate one of the mfpa paintings. Remind them that the quality of the drawing is not the focus. Allow five minutes for drawing and then have the youth gather in the circle for a discussion with these questions:

  • Did they feel less able? Less capable?
  • In the area of art, are these "disabled" artists more "enabled" than many in our group?
  • Can they imagine someone-perhaps at their school-who feels less able in one subject yet might be completely capable in another subject or area of life outside of school?
  • Did you gain any understanding in this activity that you can share with the group?
  • What does this have to do with social justice? Make sure your discussion includes the importance of seeing people as multi-dimensional: no one is just their ability or just their gender or just their race. Discuss the value of supporting people in marginalized communities so they can live up to their potential. In a truly just world, everyone is enabled to contribute their talents to the community, like painting beautiful pictures.
  • Have there been other times when you have glimpsed what life may be like for someone in a marginalized community? Invite youth to share their previous experiences. If the group is having a hard time thinking of examples, leaders may share. You may also ask if anyone has ever had to temporarily use crutches or a wheelchair. What did they learn? Note that accessibility is a term frequently used when evaluating whether all resources are available to the differently-abled.
  • Do you think trying to replicate experiences of oppressed people is an effective way to increase understanding of justice issues? Why or why not? Mention that the replicated experience is not the true experiences of people in that situation because replicators choose to have the experience and are free to choose not to have the experience.

Including All Participants

For youth with mobility issues, invite them (and anyone) to draw with their toes.