Hill School science students–and watchers of “Finding Nemo”– know that the anemone and the clownfish have a symbiotic relationship, so that when the two species come together, both benefit. This fall, some Hill Schoolers experienced the symbiosis of writing and visual art.
Painter and Hill School parent Misia Broadhead loaned several original works on canvas to English faculty member Lucy Turner for use in writing classes, and students created fictional narratives inspired by Broadhead’s colorful, witty, at times ambiguous images. As a first step, each student in fourth grade writing workshop or sixth grade English gazed at a chosen painting, creating a detailed written description. Each writer then created a story connected in some way to the visual art. A quirky painting depicting two business-suited gents checking their watches while cats fall unobserved from the sky inspired pieces of realistic fiction, science fiction, and poetry. A wrecked cityscape in which a single daffodil and a blue ball are photographed by a child in a red dress led to an adventure story about crawling through a tunnel of rubble as well as a futuristic tale about a world in which flowers exist only in museums.
Broadhead wrote, “I was enthralled with their imagination and sophisticated stories! It pleased me greatly to see how my images could lead each child into a completely different story. It brought my paintings to life and gave them importance in a way I had not witnessed before.” For Turner, the project was another opportunity to reinforce that visual art, like writing, reflects a set of decisions made by a human being. Broadhead’s paintings, which suggest characters and stories without insisting on a specific narrative, were the perfect prompt. Paintings and writing remain on display oustide the Hill School library until winter break.