Today’s guest blog post is by Nikki Bank, who was Co-Director of Tufts University’s SWSG Chapter in 2014-2015. Her project was featured in the Somerville Journal.

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Tufts University mentors and girls from the Brown School in Somerville, Mass. pose near their completed switchbox project.

The Brown School’s year of SWSG culminated in the painting of an electrical switchbox through the Somerville Arts Council’s Switchbox Project. The creation of the switchbox was part of my senior capstone at Tufts, which focused on how community art fosters empowerment through individual reflection, self-esteem and identity formation as well as group cohesion and a sense of community. A community art project was an ideal extension of SWSG’s mission, as the intended outcomes of community art are aligned with SWSG’s goals for mentors and mentees. In the fall, we explored how art can be a tool for social change, which included a study of “strong woman” Frida Kahlo. We then worked to create our switchbox design, which had tobe approved by the Arts Council. We collectively created this design based on all of our ideas about what it means to be strong and how SWSG has informed how we want to empower others. As one 4th grader reflected, “the most challenging part was figuring out what to do, because everybody wanted to do a different thing but then we had to compromise.”
Girls included images and messages of strength.

Girls included images and messages of strength.

We painted the box in the spring after the snow finally melted. The creation of the box has been a meaningful bonding experience for our group. One participant reflected that for her, the process was about “having fun and also working as a team and getting stuff accomplished and it makes you feel good.” Another said, “I liked that we worked together to make something that everyone can see.” Passersby encouraged us throughout the painting process. One participant commented: “It makes me feel like people in Somerville are really supportive. It’s community, together.”
We hope our switchbox will encourage viewers’ sense of self-worth and will stand as an example of how art can empower and inspire. As one participant said, she hopes that viewers “will think that it’s amazing that since there’s usually only one person making a box, here it’s an entire group of girls making the box.”

Nikki conducted an interview with two SWSG girls while they were painting: 
What do you like about SWSG?
Girl 1: I feel safe in it, I feel I can express my feelings.
Girl 2: Yup! And I feel like I can be my crazy old self.
Girl 1: I can do stuff that usually I can’t do around other people.
Girl 2: Definitely.
Nikki: What’s your favorite part of the design?
Girl 1: I think the front is my favorite part because it’s a girl holding up a globe showing how strong girls can be.
Girl 2: And just being herself.
Girl 1: Just being whoever. In a ponytail just holding up the world. Like girls can do things, they can hold up this world.
Girl 2: And it also shows that people who like think, like people usually think like in books, it’s always boys who save the day. But it also shows that girls can be a part of the action at the same time.
Girl 1: Cuz boys always save girls in comics and stuff but it shows that we can do things. That girls are still strong.
Girl 1: They can also be the superheroes.
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