Written with assistance from Linda Zhou

For the past seven years, the Thomas Crane Public Library in Quincy, Massachusetts has hosted English Talk Time for English Language Learners. Program participants, 150 students as well as part-time library staff and a crew of dedicated volunteers, sometimes frequent the library’s art gallery space, using the current exhibition as a starting point of discussion.

This winter, Talk Time took the role of art in English language development to a new level. Talk Time volunteer Linda Zhou explained that while art was a source of personal fulfillment for many of the students, none had yet imagined the source of empowerment it would soon become, working together as a group. Talk Time applied to host its first show in the gallery, and once it was accepted, Linda and the students designed the winter term’s curriculum around an art exhibition that featured Talk Time students as artists, curators, gallerists, and event planners.

 

Fabled City (2008) Silk Batik Fiber Art by Anna Movila. Photo by Linda Zhou.

 

Elephant Herd (2013) Acrylic on Canvas Triptych Painting by Anna Movila. Photo by Linda Zhou.

That means that students develop literacy skills around everything from the “vocabulary of art, project management, ballots [for a juried portion of the art show], marketing and PR, cataloging, and even bio blurbs about the artists,” Linda says. Students with an artistic background either created new work or reproductions, or brought pieces from their collections, while the other students learned how to interview their artist classmates, craft artist statements, write labels, and press releases. The show featured works by five student artists.

The response from the library and the wider Quincy community, which boasts a vibrant immigrant population, was “extremely supportive. We’ll do more innovative events in the future,” Linda says enthusiastically. She hopes to not only book space in the art gallery for another show, but to create a whole campaign around the idea of Talk Time Artistry. The show was an opportunity for all the students to feel like they “matter” and that “people will listen.”

To learn more about Talk Time Artistry at Thomas Crane Public Library, and to see more images of the exhibition, check out these resources:

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