Pedagogy of Apples and Oranges

Title:  Pedagogy of Apples and Oranges

Site:  Lowell School
3320 W. Hirsch Street, Chicago

Artists: Olivia Gude and Beatriz Santiago Muñoz

Assistant: Juan Angel Chávez

Community Participants: Carlos Aguila, Carlos Cordova, Gerardo Cruz, Lillian Delgado, Nicholas Espana, Filiberto Negron, Miguel Perez, Dulce M. Roman, and Lottie Steel

Sponsors:  Chicago Public Art Group and Youth Service Project

Year: 1994

Scale: 60 square feet

Materials: Glass tile

Information:  Years ago the windows on either side of the door were bricked up for security reasons. The resulting façade was a form of architectural and metaphoric blight. What messages does it send the students to ask them to enter a place of education through a once beautiful entranceway that has been made ugly for utilitarian reasons?

The artists sought to “reopen the windows” by creating trompe l’oeil (fool the eye) mosaics, creating realistic window ledges and curtains that frame views of two, very different scenes.

On the left side, we gaze into outer space, seeing planets and the moon. Be sure to look for the “rabbit in the moon,” a traditional Mexican interpretation of the shadows on the moon’s surface. One of the planets we see in outer space is the earth, carefully created by the youth artist team and artists while looking at a globe for reference. Knowledge is always positional, if we are gazing out the window at Earth, where are we?

On the right side is a representation of a Toltec statue. The Toltecs were a great ancient civilization in Mexico. The Mayan civilization, itself one of the foundations of contemporary Mexican culture, was based on many of the traditions, skills, and knowledge of the Toltecs.

On the window ledge, sits an apple and a potato. The apple for the teacher is a traditional education association in American culture. The potato, known in France as “pomme de terre” or “apple of the earth” is a vegetable that originated in the Americas, but has become a food staple in many places throughout the world.

On the windowsill of the space scene is an orange. Think carefully about what you are studying, about what you are testing. Don’t make the mistake of comparing apples and oranges.