The Expressionists is a film that follows several artists and educators as they use the incentive of creativity to enrich the lives of underprivileged children in an environment that has devalued the importance of art. The story is as much about the artists who forge ahead with little or no support as it is about the children who’s lives are enriched by the efforts of their mentors.
“For as long as I can remember we have been told how students in the United States lag behind other developed countries in Math and Science. While I don’t dispute this fact, I believe we have lost our way of discovering who we are as human beings and that we have overlooked the ability of art to connect with each other. Who we are as individuals is most often left undiscovered,” says the filmmaker, Douglas Clark.
The film’s story begins with John Sauvé, an artist from Brighton, Michigan. Sauvé created the “I Am The Greatest” project – a public art exhibit displayed throughout Benton Harbor and St. Joseph, Michigan. The orange sculptures portray Muhammad Ali posing as Saint Sebastian on the cover of Esquire magazine in April of 1968. Saint Sebastian was a Roman soldier that converted to Christianity and survived a plethora of physical abuse as a result; being tied to a tree and shot with arrows. Like this Roman soldier, Ali paid a high price for standing up for his beliefs. He was stripped of his heavyweight title and spent five years in jail because he was a conscientious objector who refused the military draft.
When Anna Russo-Sieber was introduced to the John Sauvé project, she immediately saw how she could turn it into an art workshop to encourage underprivileged children to believe in themselves and overcome adversity. With Sauvé’s encouragement and the cooperation of the Benton Harbor Boys and Girls Club, Anna created a workshop based on the “I Am The Greatest” project.
There are additional local artists and programs that will be followed in the film including “Fired Up!”, an after school program for Benton Harbor teens sponsored by Water Street Glass Works and Brunson Hill Art House with Tad and Laura SandEastman. Each program and artist faces a variety of adversities as they follow their vision to impact the children in their community through art. The Expressionists celebrates the benefit to the children and the efforts of the artists as they as they show us, in a tangible way, how we can improve the communities in which we live.