Tammy Friedman believes the link between art and its history can help build bridges among different cultures, including the culture of a school. Cloonan Middle School in Stamford, CT, is experiencing a sharp increase in English Language Learners who speak Spanish at home. Realizing the lack of relationship between herself and students’ parents, Tammy turned to art (and a Fund for Teachers fellowship) to bridge the gap.
Last summer, Tammy developed under Barcelona artist Martin Brown skills to create “trencadis” mosaics popularized by Antoni Gaudi. Trendacis literally means “chopped,” referring to the fragmented shards and recycled materials pieced together to form images and/or patterns. When not in Brown’s class, Tammy embarked on daily field trips across Barcelona, exploring Gaudi’s masterpieces, such as those at Park Güell.
Tammy’s goals for this fellowship were:
- to develop a bond with families,
- teach students something they may not know about themselves and their culture, and
- make them proud of their heritage.
With her new expertise, Tammy led 100 art students (40% of whom are Hispanic) in the creation of four 30 x 56 murals, which were installed around the school last week.
“The four mosaics represent Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Frida Kahlo, and Antoni Gaudi, including inspirational quotes from the artists,” said Tammy. “In addition, students painted cubist self-portraits, personal cultural art, surreal collages, surreal hands, and street art. This fellowship inspired me with new creative ideas to share with my students, not for just one year, but for years to come.”
“Tammy is one of three teachers at our school who have received Fund for Teachers fellowships and I can’t say enough about how they return re-energized and with experiences that are relevant to kids, which has a huge impact on how they respond,” said David Tate, principal at Cloonan Middle School. “Tammy’s project is particularly relevant, as our school’s single largest demographic is students from Latino homes, so for them to see this aspect of their culture on permanent display is huge.”
A group photo of students who created each mosaic is mounted alongside their artworks, which were praised by the mayor and the superintendent during a special showing.
Tammy chose for one mosaic Dali’s quote, “Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings.” We love how Tammy embodies this quote as a role model for her students — taking her belief in the power of art from her classroom to Barcelona and back again to foster cultural pride and community relationships.
Tammy has taught for 29 years, first with special education, then third grade, middle school Language Arts, and now Fine Arts. Recently she received a Spotlight Award for Teachers, one of 20 recipients nominated by peers and awarded from across the Stamford Public School district.