HD South for Higher Education

HD South for Higher Education

HD South for Higher Education 

Elaine Kessler  


Even though the HD South building is the original Gilbert Elementary School, built in 1913, it is a treasure trove of discoveries for today’s higher education faculty and their students. As the only building in Gilbert on the National Register of Historic Places, it is not only a monument to our town’s past but serves as a beacon for what’s possible for our future. Embracing a Communities for All Ages (CFAA) approach, HD South actively engages in building “communities that are good places for growing up and growing older.” 


As adjunct faculty at Park University – Gilbert, I found HD South to be a tremendous asset in guiding students to discovering what lies at the heart of their community. With artifacts chronicling Gilbert’s rich history, an art gallery curated by Gilbert’s own Art Intersection, and programming with wide and diverse appeal, HD South is a formidable ally to the university educator. 


For my Introduction to the Visual Arts courses and First Year Seminar courses, I ask students to visit and explore HD South. They are encouraged to see each space and complete a multi-faceted assignment in conjunction with their visit. It is important to me that students are familiar with the community that contributes to their intellectual development. HD south is foundational for this type of education. 


Students are asked to describe, sketch, and/or snap a photo of their favorite artifact. After they leave HD South, they are asked to explain the meaning of the artifact – what did the artifact remind them of; why did they choose it; and how do they think future generations will come to understand that artifact? They are also asked to detail what they learned about Gilbert from their visit and their artifact selection.

For students that are not raised in this area, it is a quick and painless way to orient them to the town and its history and immediately make the town relevant to their own background. For those that are raised in the east valley, it is an incredible way to renew and enrich their love and appreciation for the area. 


In Gallery 4, curated by Art Intersection, “the mission” according to Alan Fitzgerald, Executive Director of Art intersection, is to stimulate dialogue and the exchange of ideas as well as community engagement that provokes an insatiable thirst for human understanding and connection. Exhibitions and programs in Gallery 4 invite the viewer to engage in personal reflection and conversation regarding social, environmental, and cultural topics…Through this presentation of art we intend to transform our immediate personal experience to a broader perspective.”  


Art is always an amazing resource to understanding a community and its priorities; it provides a window into what a location’s citizens are about. Art is the fastest and most accessible way to understanding a community’s pride and allegiance.  


For their visit to Gallery 4, students are asked to sketch or describe the artwork to which they are most drawn and then to answer the following questions: What does the art remind you of? What is the medium/media? What perspective does the artwork make possible? 


Students’ responses to each experience – the artifact and the artwork – have been insightful and instructive. Through the eyes of university students, HD South is a highlight of class field trips. The opportunity to develop, or renew, a connection with the community that is educating them is priceless.

Kessler, Elaine. “Untitled Image.” Elaine Kessler Photography. 2020. www.elainekesslerphotography.com  

General Information on HD South. www.hdsouth.org. Accessed 8 May 2020. 

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