An Artistic Exploration of Origins


Our Esperanza Academy High School art students participated in a prestigious event at the Kimmel Center in conjunction with the Philadelphia Orchestra. In May, Gabriela Lena Frank, the orchestra’s composer-in-residence, shared a multi-layered performance surrounding the concept of origin stories. Her compilation, coined Walkabout: Concerto for Orchestra, includes work from our students. Their works followed Frank’s theme by exploring their own origin stories in art form.

The students’ art pieces show a variety of symbols to express their feelings surrounding their origins and their current home here in Philadelphia. One such student showed her home country, the Dominican Republic, on one half of her painting with words that she would hear on the island. The other half of her painting showed the state of Pennsylvania and words associated with her home here. The dissonance between these two homes creates its own set of inquiry. It is this inquiry around origins that Frank explores.

One of many students’ art pieces at the Kimmel Center.

The orchestra’s program includes this description of the composer, “Gabriela Lena Frank, the Philadelphia Orchestra’s composer-in-residence, remarks that Walkabout: Concerto for Orchestra was inspired by her travels in Peru, her mother’s homeland. As with many of her compositions, she questions what it means to be born in America with forbearers hailing from Lithuania, China, and Andean South America. Her explorations lead to fascinating stylistic juxtapositions and enticing sounds.”

Zafka Banks-Christensen, the High School Art Teacher, shares that, “The students really enjoyed the piece and talked alot about how her music is narrative and evokes visual images.” They were able to attend the open rehearsal and meet Ms. Frank after the performance and discuss her career.

We are proud of our students for expressing their own story in beautifully artistic ways, evoking the chance for others to ponder their own origin stories. Our ties to nations can often be complex. Both Frank and our students delve into this concept with vulnerability and beauty, resulting in rich and multi-faceted artistic pieces.

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