BY JON CRONIN
For nine years, Learning through an Extended Arts Program’s Public Art Program has aided students and young people to be vocal in their communities and express themselves through public art. This year, in Queens, they have worked with two schools, PS 75 in Glendale and IS 77 in Ridgewood, as part of the City’s largest student art exhibition to reach all five borough parks.
Their website states, “This program instills social responsibility and civic engagement, imparts artistic skills and techniques, and fosters peer leadership and team building.”
The 2016 project is called “A View from the Lunchroom: Students Bringing Issues to the Table.” Two classes from two schools of each borough have created socially conscious meaningful art on lunch room tables.
At Dry Harbor Playground in Glendale PS 75 this past Monday, sixth graders Jeremiah Meredith, Elias Melendez and Jhamari Joe presented with their LeAp Teaching Artist Christy Powers. Their lunch room table focused on the reality of gun violence, bullying and drug abuse. On one side of the table a large bloodshot eye beholds everything that is bad about that terrible reality. On the other side another eye sees peace, hope and the empathy of humanity.
Meredith said, “It inspires us to report bullying,” and Joe noted, “It gives us a feeling that we’re getting recognized.” Joe added that he hopes the ideas and images on their table will give people a chance to stop and think about who they hurt.
In Evergreen Park in Ridgewood, on the same day, over 20 students from IS 77Q presented their lunch table along with their LeAp Teaching Artist Sebastian Pinaud. Their table focused on equality and animal rights.
On one side they painted a shark, a dog and rhino with the questioned emblazoned over them, “Would you eat, chain or hunt your friend?” On the other they painted a human heart with patterned hands reaching out and the words, “Different but the same,” styled below.
Sixth grader Parasanna Pokhiel, 11, said they worked together on this table to show that many different hands came together to be as one.
Anthony Rodriguez, 12, believes that animal abuse he’s heard about on TV is taken too far and that he can see the human characteristics in other creatures.
Michelle Locurto, a sixth grade teacher at IS 77 said the students at their school suffer from not having an art program and feels lucky that the LeAp program is offered there. She said their principal is looking to get an art teacher in the school next year and believes art as an outlet for students is “beyond critical.” Locurto said she saw many students come alive during the program. She said of Pinaud, “He was such a positive influence.” Locurto added that students couldn’t wait for him to show up on Fridays. She noted how one usually quiet student became brave enough to speak about the project in front of a video camera.
At the Public Art program’s opening in Manhattan’s Union Square, Carmen Fariña, NYC Schools Chancellor said, “LeAp’s Public Art Program and Citywide Exhibition offers students the opportunity to share their artistic talents and shine a spotlight on pressing social and community issues. The visual and performing arts not only make learning fun, they help students develop the critical-thinking skills and sense of mastery they need to succeed in school and in life. I thank LeAp for being a partner in bringing innovative arts education to our public school students.”
Reach Reporter Jon Cronin at (718) 357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JonathanSCronin