Each year, the student-artists at SAY Sí present Stories Seldom Told, a show based around an issue that they feel is important but largely ignored. This year, they took on educational inequity in San Antonio, creating installations that represented both the data behind the inequity and their own lived experiences as students. We had the chance to see the Less than Equal show recently and talk with student liaisons Julia and Chabriely. We left feeling reminded of what it is that arts and education organizations like SAY Sí do: encourage students to think critically and collaboratively, give them tools for their higher education and careers, and start important conversations for the entire community.
Before the students begin crafting ideas for Stories Seldom Told, they dive into the research behind it. To learn more about inequity in San Antonio, they spoke with local professors and State Rep. Diego Bernal (who has carefully looked at inequality within his own district). From there, the young artists shared their concepts within their studios and voted on which installations they’d work on.
Then, they got to creating. The large-scale installations took about two months to complete, with students working on everything from live performances to virtual reality to film. While SAY Sí students choose a studio to focus on their own discipline (like visual arts, theatre, and new media), program-wide shows like Less than Equal require all of them to work across studios—and often get out of their comfort zones.
The end result is a winding, immersive show. As we went from installation to installation, we were repeatedly amazed by the creativity and depth behind the art. Students created short films to show the lifelong disparity between a student who grows up in poverty and one who grows up well-off. They used virtual reality goggles to take a visitor into the experience of being in an under resourced special education classroom. At one installation, visitors were challenged to complete an assignment with various distractions and instructions, and then grade their own work. And during the opening show, visitors were assigned San Antonio zip codes at check in and were then guided by it: those from wealthier zip codes were given prime seating during the theatre performances, for example.
The SAY Sí students chose education inequity as their focus because they felt it wasn’t discussed enough, but the art they created starts hard, important conversations. Better yet, it inspires action: volunteering as a reading buddy to close the literacy gap, supporting organizations that bring mentors and advisors to underserved schools, and investing in after-school programs like SAY Sí—where 100% of students graduate from high school.
Less than Equal is up at SAY Sí (1518 S Alamo) until August 25th. We hope you get the chance to see it! We also hope you’ll consider supporting SAY Sí or any of our Education partners who are working to level the playing field in San Antonio. There’s no better way to show your appreciation for these students and their work than by helping find solutions to these challenges.