The effect is astonishing when you walk into the reception area or administration wing at the Churchill campus and it’s equally impressive on the fourth floor of the Waterview campus: a wall of student faces looking back at you, many of them dressed in the traditional clothing of their family heritage, all of them expressing their cultural identity.
It’s the work of Jerome Poulalier, and it’s called “Picture Our World.” Poulalier, a French photographer and artist, was commissioned by Dallas International School to beautify both campuses with his work. But his piece doesn’t serve purely aesthetic purposes.
“We started thinking about a way to promote the cultural diversity among the DIS students in order to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the school,” Poulalier said. “So we first wanted to involve all the students in this project. Then we thought about how they could express their differences and similarities.”
These ideas led Poulalier and his team to instruct students to select a word that best represented their culture and values. They were then photographed displaying the word while dressed in the clothing of their choice. There were traditional robes, sports team t-shirts and even some DIS uniforms. The portraits were then printed in black and white and mounted on the wall.
Poulalier worked closely with members of the DIS community throughout the project.
“My favorite part was probably the shooting sessions with the few art students I worked with that helped me shoot all the other students,” he said. “It was good to see them getting ready, posing and laughing in the shooting room.
“Then if I had to choose another favorite part it would be the ‘after project’ when the kids and parents saw the final result on the murals, being happy and looking at all the portraits and values and traditional outfits of everyone else. That was magic.”
Since DIS is home to over 700 students from more than 50 different countries, the project was meant to highlight the incredible diversity of the student body.
“I hope people gain awareness on how important diversity is, especially at a school where students spend most of their time for years and years,” Poulalier said. “All of the students are really open-minded.”
The completed piece has enhanced the ambience at both campuses, but after months of work between artists, students and teachers, it’s done so much more.
“It means a lot,” Poulalier said. “I’ve been helped by the wonderful DIS staff to realize this project with them. The kids were fantastic, the teachers, the administration, everybody got involved at some point and we are now all proud of being able to make it.
“It was a big project involving a lot of people, so I’m proud of it. I first wanted this project to raise awareness about cultural diversity and it ended showing this plus effectiveness of a group project with students, artists and administration.”