Image credit: I Want to Matter, 2020, Ada Trillo (b. 1975), Inkjet print, Courtesy of the artist.
About This Resource
Note for Teachers: Photography can often be a very powerful tool to convey a message for social change, advocacy and activism. The work of Ada Trillo in the current exhibition, Through the Lens: Modern Photography in the Delaware Valley, features work from her Black Lives Matter series. Use the work of Ada Trillo and the looking questions below with your students to activate critical thinking and inspire learners to consider how their own work could include a message for social change.
Grade Level (s): Grades 6-8; 9-12
Subject Area (s): Visual Arts, Language Arts, History, Social Studies
About the Artist:
“Just as any other series, Black Lives Matter was created with the intention of enacting change. All my photographs show the face of humanity against injustice. The African American community has faced discrimination for many years. Just like many of you, I am still learning more about it. There is one thing I am certain of; we must unify in solidarity to make life easier for this community. As a Latina woman, I am an advocate for Black and Brown unity during these trying times.” – Ada Trillo
Citing the importance of unifying Black and Brown communities, Ada Trillo documented Philadelphia protestors standing up against the systematic oppression of Black lives in the summer of 2020. Born in El Paso, Texas, and raised in Juárez, Mexico, Trillo produces work that amplifies the voices of marginalized people.
Look closely at this work by Ada Trillo. Take some time to view it in silence for a full minute without speaking to a friend, family member, or classmate. Next, write down (or think about) one word you might use to describe the person depicted and one question you have about the photograph. Use the additional looking questions below for further exploration.
- What do you see? Describe all the details you notice in this image.
- What is the focal point of the work? What draws your eye to this area?
- Who do you think this person is and what might they be feeling? Explain your answer.
- What does the statement in the photograph mean? How does this statement resonate with you and your own experiences?
- How do you feel when you look at this photograph? Why?
- Do you have any personal connections with the photograph? Explain if you are comfortable.
- In your opinion, what message is the artist communicating? Explain your answer and support your ideas with examples from the photo.
- If you were to write a statement on a poster in response to this photograph, what would it include? Why?
About the Artwork:
Standing before statues of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, a young boy holds a sign reading “I Want to Matter.” The scene shows the striking contrast between two historically celebrated white men, whose roles as enslavers are often overlooked in light of their political achievements, and the plea of a child who continues to face racial prejudice stemming from the injustices of slavery. It elicits a powerful emotional response to the violence against Black lives and the erasure of Black contributions to U.S. history.
Artwork with a Message
Think about an issue you care deeply about. This issue should be a general concern or issue in society, not just a pet peeve. Perhaps you are concerned about the environment, racism, homelessness, bullying, mental health, or discrimination. There are many issues out there and creating an artwork is one way to send a message—whether it is to raise awareness about the issue, or advocate for or against the issue being portrayed.
Next, talk to people—your friends, classmates, or family members—have any of them been affected by the issue that you care about? How? Why? Spend time researching your issue and gathering notes and sketches about it using a journal or sketchbook. Research other artists that might have also created artwork around the issue that you care about.
Then, using an art material of your choice, create a final work conveying this issue you feel deeply about. What will your point of view be? How will you use this work to create awareness for your issue? Will you include words in your image?
- What might this young boy say to you? Use this activity sheet. Look closely at the image and consider the setting, body language, clothing, and visual details included in the photograph. Note: This general activity can be done with any artworks featuring a person.
Research and Action Projects
- Research and report out on recent efforts in the Black Lives Matter Movement. Learn more about what local activity is taking place in your community, what global action is taking place, and where you can help.
- Create and design a campaign with your classmates to build awareness on an issue in your community. How will you get the word out? What other groups will you connect with?
- As a class, develop a play, skit, documentary, or music production that raises awareness on an issue in your community. Or create this production to build awareness on the Black Lives Matter movement, just as Ada Trillo does with her photography. Host an event at your school to perform this production or create a video of it to share online.
- Activity Sheet: Art for Social Change (.pdf)
- Activity Sheet: Say What? Gallery Activity (.pdf)
- Previous post: Gallery Activities for Through the Lens: Modern Photography in the Delaware Valley