Until the Flood Portrait Boxes Project

Center Theatre Group partners with Culver City High School’s Academy of Visual & Performing Arts to enhance arts education and connect students to work at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in particular.

Teaching Artist Gregg Chadwick partnered with Susan Greider, Creative Director for the Visual Art Department, on a project inspired by Until the Flood by Dael Orlandersmith which explores the social uprising in Ferguson, Missouri following the shooting of teenager Michael Brown. All eighteen participating students saw the performance and met with Director Neel Keller as they embarked on creating “Portrait Boxes” based on an interview with a peer or family member. They used assemblage, collage, drawing, painting, etc. to create visual symbols and metaphors representing the external and internal selves.

The images and artist descriptions below are a sampling of the thoughtful and resonant projects the students created.

Culver City High School’s Academy of Visual & Performing Arts is a "specialized secondary program" created in 1996 through a grant from the state of California with major support from Sony Pictures Entertainment. The program offers classes in departments of Music, Theatre, Visual Art, Film, and Dance that occur after the regular school day. The program is open to students at Culver City High School by audition, as well as students in independent study or home study through the school district.

As an artist, I am always looking to incorporate various medias with larger, pressing matters of today. The play Until the Flood brought up so many divergent themes around the perspectives of members of the community, the reality of inequality, and community. This inspired me to create a piece with an individual with a barrier around them to symbolize the barriers that we put up and how there are deeper perspectives and meanings to people than what is visible on the surface. This piece was meant to evoke similar emotions of openness and stubbornness portrayed by the characters in the play.

— Eva Gibbs-Zehnder

For my CTG project I considered various options on 3D media and ideas to express the play, Until The Flood. This play had strong narratives that reflected the history and perspectives of the police brutality and oppression that African Americans have faced in America. At first I thought about a box-like figure with suspended strings representing sound waves as I first thought of expressing the idea through sound. This idea never truly followed through, and soon I began to experiment with creating collages from old and new magazines to create collective images that expressed or told a story. I first used an old shoebox and cut it into pieces so I could form a platform with 4 walls crossing diagonally but with empty space towards the center. Then, I started to play around with color themes and pictures on each wall. I decided that this experiment would be my actual project. I made it so that when you look at one of the platforms 4 sides you would have two walls facing diagonally inward with a space in the middle revealing a background that coincided with the theme, whether it was revealing a truth or marching toward an idea. The first side represents the movement and immigration of people. It gives off the theme of urbanization, growth, and neon energy. The second side represents the plight of Native Americans and their struggles due to so-called ‘manifest destiny’. The background has a stained glass mosaic of a religious figure possibly of Catholic or Christian origins which were religions Natives were forced to follow against their will and erase their own traditions and culture. The third side represents two other prominent topics of climate change and women rights with a background of the Whitehouse where such discussions and fights are prominent. The fourth side represents the Black Lives Matter Movement with the face of a single Black child against a blooming flower and the background of a march or protest against said police brutality. I believe that each side is unified in its composition through selective color themes and images that reflect the concept chosen. My intentions with these parts of this piece was to emphasize how a topic or concept has multiple perspectives, underlying problems, and solutions as I believed that perspective was a fundamental part of the play’s narrative.

— Grace Reason

Here is my finished CTG project. The reason why it is illustrated very simply is because I was trying to tell a story and having the piece be drawn in a very simple way makes it easier to see and understand the story. That story being about people who mess up their own lives by doing something awful in college, and having their actions come back to haunt them later in life, relating to the prompt of how the past changes your future. Just because three certain aspects of the work are a little more symbolic—I just want to explain them more in depth. The numbers above the character represent the age, the eye on the 2nd character represents the witness, and the black bar over the women’s face represents a surprised memory, which is why the women’s face is no longer black barred in court because the man can no longer ignore his own actions.

— Ian Paglia

I was immediately drawn to the set of Until the Flood—scattered flowers, trinkets, bundles of candles and light-- that served to recreate the significance of a vigil and the meaning of remembrance. The lighting and set design had a powerful impact on the atmosphere of the play, and in my piece I wanted to convey that effect. The candles in my multimedia response were a tribute to the transformation that light can facilitate.

I chose to use found objects and materials to construct and decorate my work as a symbol of the trinkets and unique items found at a vigil. An object's value can change so much depending on the person who holds it; Until the Flood is a reminder that every fragment of a thought or memory is still a piece of the mosaic that reflects a person's life.

— Lacey Burns