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Guerilla art captures hearts, minds at BCHS

Filed in BCHS, District by on October 9, 2017

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When BCHS student Catherine Clarke approached her teacher with an idea to create pop-up art installations at the high school her junior year, little did she know that her inspired idea would find instant fans and a growing membership in what is known as the BCHS Guerilla Art Club.

Now, a year later, the club has grown to more than 25 students who have committed to bringing artwork to the masses, in places where they might not expect it. And with the help of club adviser Karen Caron, and the support of Bethlehem Opportunities Unlimited (BOU), the Guerilla Art Club is off to a running start in the 2017-18 school year.

Already this year, the group has surprised fellow students with colorful chalk art adorning the front of the school that was part self-promotion for the club and a part-reminder for the school’s 1,600 students to celebrate the differences in one another. The group is also hard at work preparing a fundraiser for hurricane relief that will feature artwork that can be purchased at Homecoming.

According to Principal Dave Doemel, the Guerilla Art messaging often dovetails with themes the school is trying to emphasize.

“Last spring, the club set up eye-catching art in front of the school spelling out the dangers of texting and driving,” said Doemel. “Their work and their words often resonate more with their peers than when these same messages are conveyed by adults at school.”

As for club founder Clarke, she said the group’s mission is two-fold: to integrate art into the school day for kids who don’t have a chance to do it otherwise and to spread a positive message with every project they create.

“We want students and community members to be able to have their voices heard and interact with our art, as well as take away a meaningful message,” said Clarke.

She said the club meets on Fridays after school and that it is open to anyone.

“It’s not your typical art club,” said Clarke. “We try to introduce lots of different media, such as chalk, wood, sticky notes, even steamrollers.” 

On a recent Friday, several members were testing screenprinting t-shirts and posters using discarded manhole covers. They hope to sell their “street art” as part of a fundraiser to help victims of recent hurricanes in Puerto Rico and the southern United States. Taking a cue from a YouTube video featuring Berlin-based artists called Pirate Printers, who seek out art on the streets of the European city, the BCHS Guerilla Art Club looked to their own community to find similar inspiration. 

With the help of Principal Doemel and School Resource Officer Chad Rice, they got their hands on old manhole covers emblazoned with “Town of Bethlehem” and “Delmar” that will serve as unique printing presses.

“Principal Doemel has been very supportive of the club and when the students asked for his help he did not hesitate,” said art teacher and club adviser Caron. “Thanks to him and Detective Rice we have these very cool manhole covers the students can experiment with.”

Clarke said the she is appreciative of the support the Guerilla Art Club has received from school administrators, Ms. Caron and from the BOU, which provided funding to the group in recognition of its efforts to provide kids with a healthy, creative outlet.

“They have been very generous and we are very grateful,” said Clarke.

Students who are interested in joining the Guerilla Art Club can do so any Friday after school. The club meets in Room D-225.

Watch for more information about the group’s Homecoming fundraiser. Homecoming weekend is Friday-Saturday, October 13-14, 2017.