Night of 1,000 Fridas
Danny Stock
In late winter 2017, GDS 2nd grade teacher Todd Carter had just finished wrapping up a public street exhibition of 100 decorated ducks displayed in DC. The whimsical project had enjoyed some artistic participation from several members of the GDS staff and student populations. At the time, he only hinted at his plans for the future. “I have an idea for something else,” he’d said coyly. Pressing for details, he kept mostly mum except for this one detail: “One thousand Fridas.”

On the evening of January 25, 2019, more than 400 people across 15 different countries participated in Todd’s global art collaboration Night of 1,000 Fridas to display representations of the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo in public. Participants and their joyful fans shared the artwork on various social media platforms with the hashtag #1KFridas. Locally, Carter partnered with several neighborhood groups including Main Street Takoma, Petworth Arts Collaborative, Adams Morgan ANC, and The Awesome Foundation to create neighborhood hub events and offer prize money to artists.

“My interest in Frida began while teaching my second grade students about her life and art,” Todd explained. “Our curriculum has a big focus on identity and celebrating a diversity of voices. While plenty about her life is not fodder for the second grade classroom, her story contains some pretty important, inspiring messages for kids and our broader community.”

Kahlo’s independence, honest exploration of pain and politics, and her seemingly unapologetic self-expression of identity proved a powerful draw for artists and amateurs around the world, including right here at GDS:

Third grade students took materials to their preschool buddies at CentroNia in mid-January. They created more than 50 Frida frames that were displayed in Unity Park in Adams Morgan.

First and 2nd grade students created their own Frida portraits, which adorned the 42nd Street windows of our High School until the end of January. Some students then went on to create their own works of Frida art at home, including Aiden Lohuis ’29 whose painting “The Frida I Love” joined a gallery that GDS parent Aurie Hall (Graham Wilder ’20, Ellis Wilder ‘18) hosted at the bookstore Politics and Prose.

“Aiden couldn’t believe her teacher was doing something worldwide,” said Aiden’s mother Kimberly Lohuis. “She was inspired by the volume and variety of contributors. It was exciting to be a part of such a fun idea as an eight year old artist. She has a passion for art so to be included in this was very special to her.”

Across the room from Aiden’s painting, visitors were flocking to see the stunning “Frito Kahlo,” an installation by first grade teacher Andrew Berman made entirely of Frito chips. Andrew had three other pieces in the gallery which all got plenty of coverage when Telemundo visited.

Ava Blum ’23 created Frida for her 8th grade clay head project featured in the linked video. Physical education and health teacher chair Peg Schultz also added a piece to the gallery.

In the days before the launch, the Washington Post ran a two-page article. Todd told the Post: “I hope people celebrate the creativity of the artists who are participating. And I hope that the people who are participating who don’t consider themselves artists find some value in creating and feel part of a community of artists.”

Second grade teacher Mandy Kimlick hosted an event at another DC hub sPACYcLOUD Lounge with live DJ, body painting, and glass arts. Second grade teacher Azureé Harrison created a spoken-word video. Fifth grade teacher Bryan Williams and his daughter Mackenzie ‘23 also participated. GDS storyteller Danny Stock and his daughter Nayada ’30 produced 18 pieces including clothing items, a beach-treasures stained-glass window, a “Frida paints Frida” marker drawing, and several art history-inspired representations of Frida in famous works of art. GDS web director Tenley Peterson took the project to her daughter’s preschool where 16 children created self-portraits in the style of Frida Kahlo.

Todd himself produced an enviable collection of wildly disparate Frida representations, including a painted toilet seat, a plasticware mosaic, a napkin collage, and a near-life sized 3D Frida as the wounded deer from a well-known self-portrait.

If nothing else, Todd explained, “1,000 public images of a bisexual Latina communist revolutionary could do the world some good right now.”

Staff writer Danny Stock tells the stories of teaching, learning, competing, creating, and performing at Georgetown Day School. He is a former GDS second grade teacher and current parent.
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