Student Art Hangs in Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

Students at Western International High School in Detroit recently saw the fruits of their labor rewarded as an asset to the community through their service learning program with buildOn.

buildOn strives to bring service into the classroom, in order for students to learn about the issue at hand, express themselves through service and give back to the community, leaving a lasting impact.  The recent partnership with Green Living Science in Detroit has allowed students at Western to do exactly that.  

Dyrel Johnson, the buildOn program manager at Western H.S., had a vision for his students. “I want them to be able to think critically about the world around them and develop their own ideas on the pressing issues in our community. Specifically at large in Detroit is the issue of gun violence, which I hoped to connect them to via art,” Dyrel says.

To begin, Dyrel partnered with the art teacher at Western and together they taught the students on the issues of violence and it’s effects on people living in inner cities. Next, Dyrel connected with Green Living Science, where buildOn has done summer service previously, to send Detroit Street Artist, Eno Laget,to Western to help educate the 2nd period art class.

Eno taught the students the process of deciding what idea they wanted to convey, picking the image, choosing the colors and creating the stencils.  All the stencils and the frames they will eventually be placed in are made from recycled cardboard and newsprints.

Using his community connections, Eno was able to secure a display of the student’s pieces at Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History from the end of  March through June 2016.  Showcasing the student art pieces in a public museum gives life to the voices of the students who created the pieces.  “It is so important to have images such as these in public spaces in order to begin community conversations,” Eno says.

Below are student art pieces with their descriptions from the artist.


GLS- side eye purple

Student Name: Alexandra Medina & Edelmira Avila

Title: Untitled

Description: We chose this image because verbal abuse is something that happens, but may not recognize. Many people commit suicide because the feel suffocated with words that people say. This powerful image represents the many that are tormented by what people say.


GLS- shhh woman


Student Name: Julissa Gutierrez & Mariana Avila

Title: Untitled

Description: Many people experience violence every day of their life. Violence causes more than 1.6 million deaths worldwide, every year. Annually, 25% of women experience domestic violence. This picture represents a woman who suffered physical abuse and is seeking help. It is important for people to speak up and save many lives.




Student Name: Israel Mills & Victoria Diaz

Title: Violence at Its Peak

Description: We chose Martin Luther king as our stencil to represent his struggles with violence, and bring a feeling of passion to our city in a time of need. In his time he brought people together to rise over and make changes in other ways rather than violence. Unfortunately not all his efforts were successful. In our time after him we learned to love other people of other ethnicities for them and not color, but have failed to look down on violence. We are taught that violence is the way. This stencil we jog our memory of all that Dr. King stood for, and the good he has done.


GLS- innocent kid with gun

Student Name: Ronnie Barrera & Julian Guerrero

Title: Innocent Kid

Description: In this image the gun is the most prominent, while the kid’s face is blurred in the background. To us this image represents young people who use guns as a reaction to wanting to protect their loved ones. While we know friends who carry because they think it’s the best way to stay safe, having guns in our neighborhood actually makes people paranoid and insecure. To us, the kid in the image is holding a gun to stay safe in his community.


GLS- crying statue

Student Name: Joceline Ayala & Anna Gordillo

Title: Freedom?

Description: We chose to make this because of all the violence going on. A lot of people are ashamed of the violence going on. The statue is left with no words with all the violence going on in her surroundings. She is ashamed with what is happening and how nothing is going on to stop this cruel world so we are hoping that in the future all this violence stops. The statue of liberty is one of the most things that represent our countries and for her to be ashamed isn’t a good thing. This violence needs to stop and it needs to stop now.


GLS- call of duty

Student Name: Carlos Avina & Laura Garcia

Title: Call of Duty

Description: We have two different perspectives on what this image means. While to one of us the image reminds us of a soldier returning home, contemplating the violence of war and the violence in our communities. Soldiers’ duty is often to commit acts of violence in order to protect their country but when they return they still have to deal with the trauma of what they experienced while often being in violent neighborhoods at home as well. To the other, this image of a Call of Duty character represents how the media industry promotes violence without recognizing the actual consequences it has on communities, both overseas and here in our city. For kids who grow-up playing video games, we blur the lines of “fake” violence that is acceptable and actual violence that harms others.


GLS- black lives matter

Student Name: Nydriah Jackson

Title: Untitled

Description: I chose the image of the fist, because fists are powerful. This image represents different movements. An example would be “Black Lives Matter” movement.


GLS- bloody girl

Student Name: Jacqueline Guerrero, Jose Hernandez, Angel Hilario

Title: Untitled

Description: We chose this image of the little girl due to the fact that it is a symbol of violence. Violence is a harmful way to express your inner feelings towards someone or something.


GLS- girl's education