“The word ‘mascot’ comes from the French term ‘mascotte’ meaning lucky charm. The word was first recorded in 1867 and popularized by the opera ‘La Mascotte’, performed in December 1880. It then entered the English language in 1881.” -from The History of Mascots, International University Sports Federation
At ACMA we do not have a mascot. Established in 1992, Arts & Communication Magnet Academy has made it more than a quarter century without a “lucky charm” that we can put on coffee mugs, sweatshirts, and baseball caps. Still, from time to time the question rears its plush costumed head: should we?
A few paragraphs from now I’ll end this post with the line: ACMA transcends any single image, any simple definition, and any (even the most creative) mascot. But before that, just for a smile, I offer the top ten ideas I’ve heard over the past year…
A call back to history, when C.E. Mason Elementary opened in 1949 with the very midcentury mascot, the Tigers! (It just feels like a mascot like that needs an exclamation point after it.) Tigers would be a great mascot for ACMA with so many possibilities for artists to have fun with the traditional image and a nod to the plush ears and tails so many of our students wear right now. Tiger striped sweatshirts? Sure, our students could make that work. But…
We’re not really all that traditional, even with a pinch of irony, and if we were looking for an animal to represent that playful and unexpected nature that help to define us, we’d probably go with someone we know and love: Rojo!
One of last year’s highlights was the visit from ACMA spirit animal Rojo the llama. Rojo came to campus, kissed some students, enjoyed the love we shared (and reflected it back in warm waves).
As she waited her turn to pet Rojo in the courtyard last year a student asked me why the llama was on campus. “It’s ACMA,” I told her. “Magical things happen here.” She smiled and nodded. That sounded right. So what better animal to go on the ACMA swag than a llama? Well…
If frequency was taken into consideration, the animal most associated with our artsy campus would have to be a unicorn.
From backpacks to plush horns, the unicorn is the animal embodiment of Arts & Communication Magnet Academy. Magic, fanciful, beautiful, and bringing joy, unicorns are to ACMA what ponies are to Mongolia. During a “shadow day” last fall, when fifth graders considering applying to ACMA visit campus for a day, one of our current students who was acting as a guide arrived to school in a unicorn onesie. “I just wanted the kids to know what we’re all about,” she explained. “Here you can be yourself.”
…or a unicorn. But…
Not every student wants to be a unicorn. Knowing you can wear a cape, or a beret, or a pair of cat ears is different than choosing to wear a cape, or a beret, or a pair of cat ears. That spirit of possibility and creativity unites us, but looks different in each of our students. It’s why maybe an animal, real or imagined, isn’t the perfect mascot. Maybe we should think about something more universal to who we are, like…
We print it on the pencils we give out at the start of the year: ACMA Artists. It’s simply who we are. Writers, dancers, sculptors, filmmakers, actors, painters, animators, singers, photographers, stage techs, musicians… we are ACMA.
So maybe that’s just a description, not a mascot. A mascot ought to be something with some symbolism, some playfulness, some history. What if we looked back at the opening of the school and tried something clever? What if we considered…
The what? Well… when Arts & Communication High School opened in 1992 they did so in a building with the name C.E. Mason still emblazoned above the front door. Early attempts at naming the school included the original name, and looking back on photos from ACMA’s past you can see that during the first Clinton administration they were still calling themselves “Masonites.” How marvelous then to keep this throwback handle even as ACMA moves forward? A conversation piece! A curiosity! A silly idea? Perhaps.
No, our students identify less with C.E. Mason than they do more artistic spirits. Maybe, to take the senior painting from a year ago as inspiration, we could be…
ACMA David Bowies
Yes, some will argue, there is only one David Bowie, but is there really? Ziggy Stardust, Major Tom, that fellow in the suit singing about getting to the church on time? Bowie was not only a wild creative force, but his shapeshifting nature goes a long way to capture who we are as a collective artistic community at ACMA. Visual, musical, always in motion, Bowie embodies art in a way few did. Filmmakers and actors? Don’t forget Labyrinth! Plus, he’s the coolest cat around.
But, you’ll say, he’s a fellow and you’re 75% female at ACMA. Okay, then closer to home…
ACMA Mona Lisas
She is everywhere on campus. Painted on walls: a canine Mona Lisa, an abstract Mona Lisa, and a Mona Lisa in flannel.
She finds her way into every hallway, her enigmatic smile as ACMA as ACMA can be. More than almost any image, Mona Lisa, or the unexpected riffs on DaVinci’s painting, capture the intersection of student creativity and classical art. Put Mona Lisa on a t-shirt and folks won’t be surprised that you’re talking about ACMA. And…
ACMA …the ACMA
Last year we asked students what they thought. We invited them to come up with an answer to the question: “What is the ACMA?” They drew and wrote out ideas, and the results were as varied as our students. One student suggested a penguin, another a ghost. Another noticed that “ACMA” as it’s so often pronounced sounds very much like “Akuma,” the word for a Japanese fire demon. All of those answers are as right as tigers, or Masonites, or David Bowies.
I love that at ACMA we aren’t easy to pin down. I dig that to define us defies expectations and avoids easy labeling. That we don’t have a mascot feels as right. We are possibility. We inhabit a world of change, transfiguration, and magic. Heck, we create it.
So as fun as it would be to have an ACMA sweatshirt with a picture of Mona Lisa or the Spiders from Mars on it, I like that the next week I could wear a unicorn, and the week after that an ACMA Llama. It’s the uninhibited possibility that really captures who we are.
Truth be told, ACMA transcends any single image, any simple definition, and any (even the most creative) mascot.