Fargo school turns 'Inside Out' as photography installation celebrating diversity goes up
Local photographer Dan Koeck partnered with Madison Elementary School to participate in the Inside Out project to celebrate the diversity within the school and in the surrounding area.
FARGO — Students and staff at Madison Elementary School are hoping to spark conversation about cultural diversity and social cohesion in the area Fargo-Moorhead area by participating in the Inside Out Project.
Started by artist JR after he won the TED prize in 2011, the Inside Out Project is a "global art platform that helps communities around the world stand up for what they believe in and spark global change locally," according to information provided by the school.
Madison Elementary partnered with local photographer Dan Koeck to create their own version of the project titled “Believe in Us! Inside Out at Madison Elementary.” The project consists of 129 large-scale student and staff portraits that are pasted to the outside walls of the school.
Koeck took black and white photos of students and staff standing, jumping and dancing, and the photos were pasted to the outside walls of the school Tuesday, May 16.
“I would tell one child, 'Can you make a funny face?'" Koeck said. "There was one little girl, she told me she liked to dance, so I had her dance."
The photos are being displayed to promote, celebrate and raise awareness of the rich cultural diversity in the area, the school said.
Koeck has been volunteering with the school as a part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program for over 15 years, so he was a friendly face for the students at Madison Elementary. His relationship with the school is what inspired him to do the project there, he said.
The project is funded by a public art grant Koeck received from the Fargo Arts and Culture Commission. It was approved by the school district, and the planning committee consisted of Koeck, Principal Lori Conmy, a team of Madison teachers and staff, and a student group called the Madison Equity and Leadership Council, according to the school.
The project was something Madison Elementary was excited about, Koeck said, noting Conmy was quickly on board with his idea, and the students' classwork prepared them for the event.
Conversations were held surrounding topics of identity, culture and community in addition to students' photos being taken, the school said. Older students even helped install the photos.
The installation will remain in place until the end of the school year, weather permitting, the school said.
A community celebration of “Believe in Us! Inside Out at Madison Elementary” will take place Thursday, May 18, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Madison Elementary School, 1040 29th St. N., Fargo.
The portraits can also be viewed by searching "Fargo" on the Inside Out Project website, www.insideoutproject.net.