A new exhibit “Fabric of Dreams” features artwork by Philadelphia students who are inspired by their own dreams and aspirations.
The exhibit, which is on display at the Community Art Gallery of the Philadelphia Foundation, 1835 Market St. through Sept. 30, showcases more than 50 pieces by West Philadelphia kindergartners and second- and fifth-graders through cloth banners and audio recordings.
Some of the banners in the exhibit read, “I have a dream that grownups take care of their children, that people will start caring” and “I dream of a world where the world would be the same, but without guns and the world would be less scary.”
Dreamline.org, a program that helps students discover meaning in the fabric of their interconnected dreams and to take action on what matters most to them, created the exhibit. The program serves schools in more than 37 countries and 42 states within the United States. It is run through the Philadelphia nonprofit Cloth Cloud Education.
“I was in the classroom for 30 years as a middle-school English teacher,” said Jeffrey Harlan, founder of the Dreamline program. “In 2003, I started my work with 60 students because I realized that if we want our students to be engaged in their learning, we have to help them to become engaged in their dreams and their lives.
“We started working with local schools and then the program just organically spread to more and more schools,” he added. “Over the years, I’ve worked with more than 400 schools.”
The banners in the exhibit are the result of a program funded by Philadelphia Foundation’s Jubilee International Education Trust and the Queen’s Jubilee Education Fund. They were created at two Laboratory Charter Schools, one at 59th Street and Woodbine Avenue and the other at 53rd Street and Lebanon Avenue.
The banners envisioning a world without violence were created at this year’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at Girard College, which was funded through an On the Table Activate Grant in collaboration with the Philadelphia-based Global Citizen organization.
“The Laboratory Charter School invited me to come in and work with students in kindergarten, second and fifth grades,” Harlan said. “I was able to work with the teachers and the students were so engaged during our lesson plans. We talked about the whole notion of inside selfie, which is how we want students to look at themselves on the inside and not just what’s on the outside.
“We talked about some of their concerns, dreams, and aspirations,” he added. “We discussed what they cared about. The students had a lot to say and it was great to just hear what was on their mind and how they viewed the world in which they live in.”
In the exhibit, each banner is physically connected to each other in the manner of the Nepalese prayer flags, which demonstrates the power of connection.
Digitally, the banners are connected through the Dreamline World mobile app, which provides an image of each banner accompanied by an audio recording of the student artist’s voice sharing the message.
The banners are also tagged to align their perspectives with United Nations Global Goals to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.
“The students were really able to express themselves without boundaries and just be vulnerable,” Harlan said. “From there, the students were able to create these amazing cloth banners and audio recordings.
“The students did a wonderful job; I truly believe that what they expressed with their banners and recordings will continue to spark conversations within their own families and the community,” he added.
Harlan said that what he hopes people take away from the exhibit is that dreams matter, not just to students, but also in society.
“I hope people will recognize that if we want our students to be engaged in their learning and we want our students to be engaged in their lives, that we have to help them move in the direction of their dreams,” Harlan said.
“Those dreams don’t just matter to our students, but to all of us and the community," he added. "They provide a way for us to help our students."