Constitution Daily

Smart conversation from the National Constitution Center

Let art freedom ring!

July 26, 2011 by Kyle Debella


To honor one of the best known symbols of American freedom, the Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership arranged with the National Constitution Center to display imaginative Liberty Bells created by young student artists.

The colorful bells were created as part of the Let Art Freedom Ring © project, whose video you can watch here.

Let Art Freedom Ring Liberty Bell

Let Art Freedom Ring selects Philadelphia elementary and middle schools with limited arts education budgets and assigns them a local artist. The artists mentors students at each school and collaborates with teachers to guide students through an inquiry process leading to the design for their interpretation of the Liberty Bell.

While a number of designs closely emulate the Bell, other designs take less literal approaches, using a different materials to reinvent what a bell is. By allowing students to be creative and inventive, the program helps develop cooperation skills and build unity among students.

At the same time, the program deepens civic engagement and pride by focusing on Philadelphia’s role in building democracy in this country. By situating art practice within civic engagement, the goal is to help develop future leaders and creative thinkers who will strengthen democratic ideals.

Four bells are on display

The four bells currently on display at the Center are “Framework of Liberty” by McCloskey Elementary, “Prayers Ringing for Liberty” by St. Francis de Sales, “We the People” by Morton Elementary and “Let Freedom Soar” by St. Gabriel.

Brian Elstein, the artist-mentor who worked with Morton Elementary students, spoke of how he got involved with the project:

“I lived and taught English in the Northern Japanese prefecture of Aomori from 2005 until 2009. Aomori is known for the Nebuta festival where immense three-dimensional forms hand built from wire and rice paper and lit from within are paraded through the streets. While living there I had the opportunity to apprentice with a group of artists who created these beautiful sculptural lanterns.”

Of the project itself, he said:

“This project allowed students to apply their study of American history and the important documents on which our country was built into a visual context that not only has helped them to better grasp the meaning behind their studies, but also initiated great interest by other Morton students, who constantly asked questions about our bell and the history it represented as we were constructing it.”

For more information on the project, visit the Let Art Freedom Ring website, where you can vote on your favorite student-created bell. The Philadelphia Arts in Edcuation blog will also offer more in-depth artist profiles in the upcoming weeks.

Kyle Debella is a staff member of the Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership.

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