“There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” In our polarized, racially tense society emboldened by technology and amplified by social media, the time to speak out was NOW for Foothill Christian School. Recent school shootings, marches, protests, and hashtag movements compelled us to create an interactive event to help our students (and our community) reflect upon the causes, effects, and answers to the issues surrounding bias, bigotry, and bullying.
Inspired by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., our school renewed its commitment to the teaching of Christian compassion, love, and empathy through an immersive art exhibit called “One School’s Response.” We applied the concept of “artivism”—the use of art to make social commentary and evoke action.
It was designed to present a Christian worldview to the issues of bias and bullying plaguing youth culture today. The typical classroom lecture approach lacked the transformational power we sought. To be most impactful, our pedagogy had to change. It was not sufficient to teach, quiz, and test content in isolation. We wanted our students to grapple with biblical truth against cultural norms and trends, which increasingly do not align with Scripture.
To be effective, and God-honoring, we felt the quality had to rival any pop-up art installation common to the Los Angeles art and museum scene. Inviting the community onto our campus for social engagement and dialogue required it to be captivating and poignant for all age levels. Each of seven installations featured an art analysis and a digging deeper component that articulated a more in-depth narrative of the Christian worldview. Our teachers from TK–8th grade also developed age appropriate lesson plans for each art concept.
During National Bullying Prevention Month, we invite you to tour our exhibit by reading further, room by room, and experience a journey from brokenness to belonging, and from ruin to restoration.
ROOM 1 – THE HEART (The heart of the problem is a problem of the heart.)
As you enter this all-black, burnt-out frame of a house, listening to the steady heartbeat pulsing in your ears, you realize that this charred, dark shell of a home symbolizes the wicked, broken hearts all of us as humans possess. Yes, we have the capacity for good, but our default wiring is predisposed to evil. Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV) says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” People have a natural inclination to sin, and therein lies the root of our problems.
ROOM 2 – TECHNOLOGY (How technology contributes to brokenness.)
As you enter Room 2 you encounter a beautifully decorated dining table set for a family Christmas dinner. However, in front of every place setting was each family member’s mobile device. Their FOMO (fear of missing out) was evident as they scrolled through social media, texted their friends, curated their story-worthy photos, and so forth. The device was physically blocking their view from others at the table but also mentally blocking them from conversation. It reinforced the idea that technology can isolate us, privatize our actions, consume our thoughts, and begin to break down our relationships. What should have been an evening of conversation and laughter became a “Silent Night” at which they found themselves alone together.
ROOM 3 – STORIES (Actual stories of bias, bigotry, and bullying)
Three videos of real victims sharing their experience of bias, bigotry, and/or bullying stir the emotions. We’re reminded that racist remarks, acts of prejudice, and shameless bullying still exist and need to stop! Watch the stories here:
ROOM 4 – THE RESULTS (Anxiety, depression, and suicidal thought: a national youth pandemic.)
In this room, there were three enclosures encased in mirrored tint. When you entered inside them you were suddenly surrounded by a reflection of only yourself. You could not see out. Yet everyone else on the outside of the enclosure could see you inside. It was very isolating and generated a sense of self-conscious and anxiety. Many victims of bullying feel this way: Trapped. Alone. Seen, but ignored. Helpless.
ROOM 5 – IMAGO DEI (Image of God: The antidote to bigotry and bullying.)
In Room 5, guests were surrounded by nearly 18,000 hearts of different colors coming together to form a beautiful enclosure, a “community.” We are all different and unique, yet we are all made in the image of God. Individually we are beautiful; collectively, when we dwell in unity, we are breathtaking! So “beautifully and wonderfully made” leaves no room for groundless contempt toward others. In fact, if accurately perceived we could never be repulsed, but rather tempted to worship. Being made in the image of Christ empowers us to live deeply in community and to fulfill the two greatest commandments … love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself.
ROOM 6 – SERVICE (Compassion, empathy, and service.)
In this room, hundreds of white towels were on display. The color white is significant because it depicts light, restoration, and holiness. Our journey started in darkness and ended in light. The towels were used to symbolize service. When Jesus, the God of the universe, wrapped a towel around His waist and washed the disciples’ feet, He left us with an inspired visual for greatness … service!
ROOM 7 – ACTION (Join the movement!)
A wall covered with students’ commitments to perform acts of kindness and to stand up against bullying was on display for the final installation. Guests were encouraged to remove one card and commit to praying for that child, affirming their aspirations to “be the change” they want to see in this world. There was also a place to sit on a swing with a companion, symbolizing the coming together of two different, unique people to join the movement we have started.
So, this is One School’s Response.
It’s our hope that this immersive art exhibit will serve as a catalyst for reflection for other Christian schools throughout the country.
We invite you to take your classes on a virtual tour at our website (www.oneschoolsresponse.org). You can dig deeper with your students by reading and discussing our worldview narratives, and contribute to the creative engagement of culture on this topic and offer the hope that only a Christian worldview can deliver. We invite you … your family, your school, your church, your community group to join the movement!
To see more photos and videos visit: www.oneschoolsresponse.org
About the Authors
Robert “Bo” Gutzwiller has been the Head of School at Foothill Christian School in Glendora, CA for the past 31 years. He is currently serving as Chair of the ACSI Accreditation Commission and Vice-Chair of the ACSI Board of Directors. Bo is also active in his local community serving as President of the Friends of the Library Foundation Board. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alina Rietze serves as Foothill Christian School’s Director of Marketing. Being an alumna of FCS herself, she has found the job of promoting the school quite easy. Her love for Foothill and her passion for Christian education has sustained her over the past 7 years with FCS. Alina oversees Foothill’s main fundraising events, develops the internal/external marketing plans, and leads the communications team (a creative think-group that devise some of Foothill’s finest ideas, like the One School’s Response exhibit). She can be reached via email at email@example.com.