Blog: Mark Tucker

Are you visually illiterate? Don't know what that means? Mark Tucker, founder and Creative Director of the Street Theater Art (START) Project and the annual Festifools event, would love to explain it to you. He blogs this week about public art, community/university engagement, and improving Ann Arbor's visual literacy.

Mark Tucker - Post 3: Festifools

I started FestiFools 4 years ago (with enormous help from Shoshana Hurand, from the School of Social Work, and fellow art professor Nick Tobier) with the primary intention of increasing my student's visual literacy. Shoshana helped us to create a stage for showcasing the effect that visual literacy can have on a community (and visa-versa) while Nick raised the bar on what a group of students could produce given ample imagination and substantial educational preparation. Naturally, I also wanted a project that was both challenging for my students and involved passionate community participation, while being understood and appreciated by a broader audience.

Now the greater Ann Arbor community is acting as our Petri dish for developing effective ways to replicate a successful model of community/university engagement through the visual arts.  Ultimately, Ann Arborites are also helping to develop a simple cure for visual illiteracy--in effect, a cure for what may ail us all.

Since the FestiFools mission has always been educational, we're particularly interested in improving visual literacy education and delivery methods in the schools. We've just started to launch our "Fools in Schools" arts education outreach program in the region, by going to K-12 schools in southeastern Michigan to engage students in the same activities we set up for our college students. But, we are really just starting to get our bearings between what is fun to dream, with what is actually feasible when it comes to arts education programming in the K-12 arena.

FestiFools is a way to offer kids and schools an appreciative public venue for showing off their student work, as well as a possible way to help schools offer this kind of opportunity to their students. Making work for FestiFools raises the bar and enthusiasm for students who then go on to make some really great stuff--which in turn creates some really special ways for kids to view themselves as important, creative individuals. This spirit of creativity benefits our event, while FestiFools acts as a catalyst for helping kids learn and appreciate their new-found visual literacy skills.

In the end, we hope this will end up making for healthier, more imaginative, kids, and hopefully, healthier happier communities will result as well.

If anyone is interested in learning more about our program and how you could become a part of our mission to help bring visual literacy to the broader community, please drop us an email at