Hocker Grove Art Students Participate in Middle School Summit at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Hocker Grove Art Students Participate in Middle School Summit at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Shawnee Mission School District

A group of eight Hocker Grove Middle School 8th graders had the opportunity to join more than 30 students from four other local schools for the 2024 Middle School Summit at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. 

The project brought together high-achieving middle school art students to explore the concept of “identity” in art. 

“Students were asked to look closely at selected photographs and consider the choices that a photographer makes to convey their subject’s identity, while reflecting on the photographer’s responsibility of how that identity is shared publicly,” explained Christie Makar, the manager of school partnerships for the Nelson-Atkins.

“It was important to me that the students selected have a really strong vision and style in their artwork,” explained Hocker Grove art teacher, Alyssa Passmore. “That was one of the things that the Nelson-Atkins shared with me, [that] it would be really effective, if we had students who really kind of understood their voice and know what their point of view is.”

The project kicked off with students defining their “chosen identity,” “given identity,” and “core identity.” They then pulled together the responses from all participating students to show the similarities between individuals despite the differences in schools, circumstances, and experiences. 

“We got to discuss different elements of art and photography,” said Catalina Norris, a Hocker Grove 8th grader. “We got to talk about, surface level versus, like, deep core things about how you perceive people. And we just got to collaborate with people from other schools. It was amazing.”

The students created self-portrait collages and had a partner take a portrait of them to be featured in the Nelson-Atkins’ museum booklet: Middle School Summit 2024

A collaboration between The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and five middle schools. The portraits are printed side by side to demonstrate the unique perceptions of identity. 

“It was fun to just like, talk to other people from different schools and see their perspective on art,” said Hank Redman, an 8th grader at Hocker Grove. “I think about it in a way and seeing how other people think about it is really interesting.”

In addition to connecting students from across the metropolitan area, the field trip was an interactive application of the lessons Passmore uses in her classroom. 

“I feel like one of my main tasks as an art teacher is providing them opportunities to tell their story their way and to share their perspective. And so, I talked to my students a lot about how if there's ever a space to just embrace how you're actually feeling, it's got to be the art room. I think that there's a lot of identity affirmation that happens in art classes, because there's not a right or wrong answer.”

While this was the first time Hocker Grove has participated in the Summit, Passmore says she hopes to bring another group of students next year.