IPS School Takes to the Skies with “third space”

Contact: Megan Bogard Gettelfinger
Arts for Learning Indiana
[email protected]

April 10, 2023

For 61 years Arts for Learning has partnered with Indianapolis Public Schools to engage students in artistic programs they would otherwise not be able to experience. In the 2019-2022 school years, Arts for Learning partnered with six schools for the third space program, interjecting art not only into the physical space but also into the curriculum. Designed to temporarily disrupt the school environment and the traditional learning experience, the large-scale third space installations challenged students to discover, uncover, and construct their own meaning.

About the “third space” Project 

We borrow the phrase third space from Lauren M. Stevenson and Richard J. Deasy, two experts in the field of arts education and co-authors of Third Space: When Learning Matters (2005). Third space refers to the “sets of relationships forged by the arts and the context these relationships create for teaching and learning.” A conceptual rather than a physical space, third space describes the way in which meaning comes into being through interaction with a work of art and the interchange of ideas around it. A third space is opened when students draw on their lived experience (a first space) and what they have learned from their teachers (a second space) to create a new understanding around the art and express it – the combination of experience, knowledge, and critical and creative thinking – all in a cohesive manner. These conditions enable students of various learning styles, personalities, and backgrounds to take a more active role in their own education, and teachers participate in constructing learning with students rather than simply delivering content to them. 

Through a meaningful partnership with the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University in Bloomington, Arts for Learning is developing a curriculum that will empower teachers and staff to facilitate fruitful engagement with the artwork in the school community. This curriculum will be shared with each school’s faculty in a private workshop prior to the opening of the school’s exhibition. 

Tiffany Black
Qahar Behzad
Qahar preparing his kite for a journey through the skies

The Artists & The Installation

Tiffany Black and Qahar Behzad are both visual artists and collaborators based in Indianapolis. They met each other at a large military base, Camp Atterbury, in December 2021 where Qahar sought refuge from Afghanistan amongst the other 7,201 evacuees, and Tiffany was brought in to provide arts programming for those awaiting resettlement. Both extremely passionate about painting, social engagement, equity, and activism; it was kismet that they would meet each other—on Behzad’s last day at Camp Atterbury no less—and would soon join forces as a couple of creative collaborators. Today Qahar and Tiffany are teaming up again to create a 77-foot-long immersive third space installation composed of hand-made kites for the students at Jonathan Jennings IPS #109. Primarily created from recycled plastic bags, tablecloths, tissue paper, and other repurposed materials, these kites will be soaring through the hallway that leads to the students’ cafeteria and playground. The Jonathan Jennings makeover aims to bring vibrancy and color to a space that celebrates playfulness, innocence, and freedom through the magic of flight.

Kite-making and flying have a long-standing tradition in Behzad’s home country of Afghanistan.In his experience, kite-flying is an avenue for creative expression, artistry, and healthy competition among peers, especially for Afghan children in need of engagement while banned from attending school. In the face of Taliban control, kite-flying is a covert act of defiance displayed primarily by young people. Through kite design and incorporated patterns within the installation, students will have the opportunity to locate various cultural representations from all over the world. 

Through the experience of this third space installation, students will learn about creativity, play, and the lives of children in a different part of the world as Behzad shares about the lives of Afghan children barred from attending school by the Taliban. At the school’s Family Night on May 4th, 2023, Jonathan Jennings students will have the opportunity to send messages of solidarity and support to their peers in Afghanistan. This installation, and its accompanying programming, will provide layered opportunities of engagement for students, families, and the larger community of Jonathan Jennings.

About Arts for Learning Indiana: Since 1961, Arts for Learning Indiana has been the premier provider of arts education programs for youth across Indiana. Our programs empower youth and expand their learning through creative arts experiences. Arts for Learning employs more than 60 teaching artists who provide performances, workshops, and residencies to schools, libraries, parks and community organizations to reach nearly 40,000 youth every year. We also provide professional development designed to help classroom teachers and teaching artists effectively work together to integrate the arts into any educational environment. Arts for Learning is one of more than 30 affiliates of Young Audiences Arts for Learning, the nation’s largest arts in education learning network. To learn more about Arts for Learning, visit www.artsforlearningindiana.org.

Qahar’s kite soaring through the deep blue
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