Our Street Is Us And We Are It

"Our street is us and we are it. Our street is where we like to be, and it looks like all our dreams." 

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"Think of your favorite line. When I call your name, answer with your favorite line," says instructor Miss Jude as she proceeds to read through a list of names with curly, straight, dotted and zig zags singing back at her. 

This is a special class for Jude Odell, a local teaching artist who has been working for the Indianapolis Art Center's ArtReach program for over twenty years. Every year, ArtReach serves approximately 1,000 youth at 26 sites from underserved areas of Indianapolis by providing high-quality year-round, community-based art education with a focus in art-making, art history, art criticism and aesthetics. Students affectionately refer to Odell as “Miss Jude.” 

Today's activity is to draw houses and the class begins with a story: The Big Orange Splot. Mr. Plumbean lives on a street where all the houses look the same. After a seagull drops a can of bright orange paint on his roof, Mr. Plumbean decides to paint it to resemble his dreams instead of fixing the paint spill. His neighbors send people to talk him into repainting his house to look like theirs, but everyone ends up painting their houses like their dreams. In the end, all the neighbors say: 

"Our street is us and we are it. Our street is where we like to be, and it looks like all our dreams." 

Miss Jude's experience traveling through Burma informs the way she writes her lesson plans for this ArtReach site where all of the students are Burmese refugees as a group, although many of them were born in Thailand in refugee camps or in transit to the US and have never been to Burma. Most of theare under ten years old and live in the apartments across the street from the school. 

After story time, she picks up a stack of photos of different houses and buildings around the world. "What do you see?" She says as she holds up a photo of the Taj Mahal.  

With their imaginations sparked and armed with the knowledge of knowing people can live anywhere they want, the kids move to the activity table, speaking amongst themselves, jumping between languages when discussing their activity and the art supplies.  

By the end of class, all kinds of houses pop up; houses with big balconies, purple houses and houses that are built underwater. For a moment that day everybody lives in their dream house.

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