Inside OUT Ottoson: This is Who We Are



October 2016

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Over one-hundred larger-than-life portraits of students decorate the exterior of the Ottoson Middle School.  ‘Inside OUT Ottoson: This Is Who We Are‘ is a public art project that aims to celebrate the diversity of the school community with the outside world.

The project was the idea of Ottoson art teachers Alecia Serafini, Polly Ford and Kayla McKenna, who wanted to find a way to use the power of art to advance the conversation about accepting and respecting all members of the school community regardless of race, gender, ethnicity and personal identity. ‘This Is Who We Are’ is a response to the racist and anti-Semitic graffiti in the school last winter. The teachers, recognizing the ability of art to influence discussions, explain that participation in the Inside Out project gives students a voice both personally and publicly. Funded by a $3,000 grant from AEF, the Inside Out project engaged over 150 students who enthusiastically managed recruiting and photographing students, making posters, setting up social media sites, and of course, being photographed.

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Excerpt from the Superintendent’s October 2016 Newsletter

“Inside OUT Ottoson: This is Who We Are” Gives Students a Personal and Public Voice

If you were unable to attend the October 29 unveiling ceremony, I hope you drive or walk past the Ottoson to see the amazing new art installation. Inside OUT Ottoson: This is Who We Are is a beautiful collection of 100 black and white student portraits, proudly pasted on the outer walls of the building.

The project, initiated by OMS Visual Arts teachers Alecia Serafini, Polly Ford and Kayla McKenna, is a  response to the racist and anti-Semitic graffiti found in the school last year. The inspiration comes from French street artist and 2011 TED Prize winner JR, whose goal is to create a participatory art project with the potential to change the world. The Arlington Education Foundation awarded their annual Dawn Moses Memorial Innovation Grant to the three teachers and the OMS World of Difference program to fund the project.

Over 150 students were involved in managing the recruitment and photography, making posters, settingup social media and finalizing the layouts of Inside OUT Ottoson. The OMS student body was introduced to the project during Advisory classes, and discussions were held about the importance of taking responsibility for one’s actions and celebrating differences. You will want to spend a few minutes looking at the Inside OUT Ottoson Facebook page that documents the amazing creation process. Here you will find pictures and links to a local news video and to our story on the global Inside Out website.

I want to commend everyone who helped to create this wonderful celebration of diversity at Ottoson. Special thanks go to Ms. Serafini, Ms. Ford and Ms. McKenna and World of Difference advisors English teacher Jessica Keweshan and Special Education teacher Lillian O’Donnell for spearheading this project, and to the town employees who assisted in the installation. I am proud of our students and teachers for coming together to advance the conversation about accepting and respecting all members of our school community regardless of race, gender, ethnicity and personal identity in this beautiful and very public manner.

“Be The Best You” Honors Ottoson Students Working to Become Their Best Selves:

  • Being respectful, responsible and resilient
  • Having a strong work ethic
  • Showing kindness and empathy to one another
  • Collaborating well in group work
  • Meeting high expectations
  • Understanding what is means to be an UPSTANDER

How does one become his or her “best self”? The Ottoson community believes that striving to be the best version of yourself that you can be not only benefits the individual, but also is vital to creating and maintaining a supportive culture. That is why OMS has launched the Be The Best You recognition program. Each quarter the staff will identify students who have exhibited the qualities and behaviors shown in the six bullets listed above. These students will be honored with a letter, certificate and an UPSTANDER wristband. Since Interim Principal Eileen Woods knows that there are many Ottoson students who are working hard to be the best version of themselves, she is hopeful that 150 young people per quarter will qualify for recognition.

Dr. Woods stresses that being your best self is not restricted to students. While the students must take a leadership role in promoting a positive and safe school environment, the faculty also has an important part to play. Faculty and staff model the best version of themselves during daily interactions with one another by using respectful tones of voice, setting and meeting high expectations for learning and by building winning relationships with the students. Open and honest communication, decision-making, trust, confidence, appreciation and recognition are important norms of the supportive community that Ottoson wants to build and sustain.

Our words have power, and Be The Best You is designed to help everyone reflect on how they speak,  interact with each other and make decisions. By doing this, students, faculty and staff  will be contributing to fostering an inclusive culture of acceptance and respect that celebrates diversity.


The Inside Out project is a creation of the artist JR, recipient of the 2011 TED Prize.   Inside Out is a large-scale participatory art project that transforms messages of personal identity into pieces of artistic work. Everyone is challenged to use black and white photographic portraits to discover, reveal and share the untold stories and images of people around the world. These digitally uploaded images are made into posters and sent back to the project’s co-creators, for them to exhibit in their own communities. Posters can be placed anywhere, from a solitary image in an office window, to a wall of an abandoned building, or in a full stadium. These exhibitions will be documented, archived and be made available online at

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