In my culminating post for CET, I’m excited to present to you a short feature documentary we just finished this week featuring the brilliant muralist, Jeff Zimmermann.
As a self-taught painter with only a Painting 101 course to his credit, Jeff’s murals are an indelible part of the landscape in the Pilsen community, among others. His hyper-realistic paintings make the average everyday subjects he chooses literally larger than life. His work spans the various regions of our city and can been seen in Grand Rapids, Charleston, Memphis, and even as far out of the country as South America. Incidentally, Jeff’s teaching experience started in Peru, where he worked for three years in poverty-stricken areas as an art educator. He sought to make meaningful artistic connections with children that didn’t have much chance, and truly encapsulates the type of work we seek to do with SITE.
I’m proud to call him a friend, and was excited to be able to interview the man himself in his soon-to-be-relocated studio in Humboldt Park. The following film is a short version of our forthcoming final feature. It was directed, edited and mixed by the AV dynamic duo of Reid Garrison Miller and George Joseph Miller IV, who are both students/Alumni of DePaul’s CDM as well as former/current staff of CET, respectively. Jared Krenzler and Sally Lawton (also CDM students) operated additional cameras. The sound was captured and produced by James Steyskal.
When we conceptualized SITE over three years ago, it was a wholly different animal than what it is now. What initially started as an idea for a simple print magazine on education grew and evolved through our work into a robust and tightly designed online platform for educators. Seeing a lack of support for teachers in the school system, we developed this project as a conduit for teachers’ ideas to be turned into free-to-use, easily reproducible curriculum ‘zines that would speak to and help out teachers across the globe.
As it stands, SITE has over 80 users from six different countries that have discussed over a hundred topics important to them since we launched on January 2nd. In the grand scheme of things, we’re just a small group of people who feel that the school system is broken. However, we’re not so jaded that we think it can’t be fixed. As Art programs are cut, teachers’ hours get longer without compensation and privatized education takes a larger and larger chunk out of the public schools, one thing remains constant: genuine inspiration and creativity cannot be stifled, and has the ability to transcend even a crippled educational system. Jeff Zimmermann’s work is case in point.
SITE is governed by the three basic tenets of Art, Activism and Technology—Art meaning creating something out of nothing, Activism meaning the act of doing something to better yourself and your community, and Technology meaning using the tools at your disposal to create. These tenets are undeniable in the work of the strongest educators, and truly ring out in Zimmermann’s highly political public works of art.
It’s been a real pleasure working with the truly dedicated educators here at DePaul, the ever-supportive Chris Worthman of CET and webmaster-extraordinaire, Beth Wiedner, who was an invaluable collaborator in the creation, design, organization and implementation of SITE. Have a great summer and I look forward to seeing you soon.