AUSTIN, Texas — The Fourth Grade Project, an exhibition highlighting the work of visual artist Judy Gelles, opened at the Bullock Texas State History Museum on Saturday, June 25. The photography exhibition features images and personal stories of school children across the globe.
"We're really excited to have this exhibit at the museum. Families can bring their kids before school starts back up and learn from other fourth-graders from around the world," said Kathryn Siefker, curator at the Bullock Texas State History Museum.
Between 2008 and 2019, Gelles interviewed and photographed more than 300 fourth-grade students from a wide range of economic and cultural backgrounds in numerous countries and in multiple areas of the U.S.
The artist asked each of the students the same three basic life questions: Whom do you live with? What do you wish for? What do you worry about?
A local Austin fourth-grader was at the exhibit, and KVUE asked her the same questions.
"I live with my mom, my dad and my brothers. I want to go to the Olympics for gymnastics. I worry about getting hurt in gymnastics," said Siefker's fourth-grade daughter, Evelyn.
The fourth-graders' voices capture a variety of experiences and insights that speak to both the commonalities and distinctions in growing up in different families and communities, the museum said.
“The Bullock Museum selected this traveling exhibition prior to the start of the pandemic. Welcoming thousands of fourth-graders studying Texas history at the museum every year, we felt the beautiful and thoughtful way the artist captured the image and voice of each student would resonate with our audiences in a meaningful way," said Bullock Museum director Margaret Koch.
The photographs throughout the exhibition capture students in a combination of frontal and reverse portraits. Attendees can walk the circle throughout the museum and read about each child's response.
The exhibition also allows visitors to ask themselves the same questions that Gelles posed to the students with interactive experiences. Visitors can reflect on their responses with a mirror interactive or become a part of the exhibition by posing and snapping their own photograph.
The exhibition is presented in English and Spanish, and an educator guide is available to help teachers with lesson plans focusing on global understanding and tolerance.
The Fourth Grade Project is on view at the Bullock Museum from June 25 through Dec. 11.
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