Guest post by Alliance staffer Lisa Feder-Feitel
Last summer at this time, Zoe Rodriguez spoke almost no English. Newly arrived with her family from Venezuela, she enrolled at Cincinnati’s Kings High School as an ESL student. Very soon, Zoe’s art teacher Kelly Shields discovered that Zoe was also a very talented photographer. That discovery—and a commitment to help her new student practice English—was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
“Ms. Shields is more than my teacher,” explained Zoe, as she showed Mariana (Manager of Affiliate Services) and me around the Illustration and Design Summer Intensives show at Parsons The New School for Design. “She is my friend.”
Zoe and Ms. Shields teamed up to make sure that this rising senior submitted her work to the 2012 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, where Zoe earned not only a Gold Key for her photograph “pelirroja“, but also a coveted ASAP Award to attend a four-week program in the heart of Greenwich Village—her first time in the Big Apple.
“I think some students thought that this would be a like summer camp,” said Zoe, as she guided us through the three bright classrooms where she created three major projects in four weeks. “But we were up every night working on our homework, every day drawing and designing, taking photographs. It was very, very serious,” she says, smiling.
So what did Zoe create this summer? She showed us a fabulous skirt and umbrella (pictured above) fabricated of paper petals from Asian magazines; an “emergency pencil box” (left) conceived using the Japanese design concept Chindōgu; and finally, a print project for which she designed an urban alphabet inspired by bike chains, metal fire escapes, street performers, construction sites and other city images.
The product, a foldout book, featured a collage-style print of these images with this message: “Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.” Just a year later, Zoe’s English, as well as her design sense, strikes us as remarkably eloquent.