Guest Blog by Kristin Silver, Art Teacher, Bowman School, Palo Alto

There is a fleeting moment that I cherish as an educator, the moment when you see a child’s eyes light up with a sense of true understanding and passion for something outside of them self.  Several of these moments happened during a visit to Clarion Alley a few months ago. I had the pleasure of bringing two of my 6th grade students to the alley to meet with Megan Wilson. Megan took an enormous amount of time and care walking us through the alley and discussing the myriad of colorful and expressive pieces contained within. As we walked she pointed out various forms of vandalism, the unfortunate risk to public art. In most cases it might be a small tag, but in less fortunate cases an entire work of art might be destroyed by the selfish acts of another.


We reached one such case near the end of the alley. This particular mural had been damaged to the point where Megan and her partner Christopher sought immediate action. Where the vandalized mural once stood had been replaced with solid flat orange paint, along with a simple message written in bold black letters: RESPECT. Megan explained to my students that it was important to send a clear message to the public about maintaining respect for each other and the art displayed in the alley. During the car ride back to Palo Alto the two students excitedly discussed the art they had seen, but kept coming back to the feeling of disbelief and hurt they felt at seeing the vandalism. One student in particular was profoundly affected.
 A month later, I was walking past a student art display at school when I noticed that we had been hit with our own form of vandalism; someone had completely scribbled out the face of another student’s self portrait hard with a pencil. It hurt to see. These children had literally put themselves on display, made themselves vulnerable with their wonderfully imperfect creations, and the trust had been abused. In my search for how to deal with the situation I turned to one of the students I had taken to the alley. I showed her what had happened, and in her eyes I saw that spark of passion and understanding. Within minutes she sprung into action and painted a replacement message, Clarion Alley style. I removed the art display, and together we hung up a large sheet of black butcher paper with the word RESPECT boldly painted in orange and red. Throughout the week I talked with many classes about what had happened, what we had done about it, and the importance of respecting a safe space for self expression. For many students this message stuck; it’s been several months past and the RESPECT sign is still brought up regularly.
As artists, every creation we make contains a little piece of our soul. By putting something out into the world we are making ourselves vulnerable whether we are a professional muralist or a child. Luckily for us there are magical places that exist in like Clarion Alley, places that foster creativity, allow us to express ourselves, and promote understanding and respect. People like Megan and Christopher who take the time to educate the next generation about these ideals are so important, and they are making a visible difference in the artists of tomorrow.

– Kristin Silver, Bowman School

Thank you Kristin and the Bowman School – CAMP loves working with teachers like you and schools such as the Bowman School that really support their students’ creativity and love of learning and knowledge to help them reach their dreams and promise!