Local Students Use Art to Fight Violence

Written by NYPress on . Posted in News Our Town, Our Town.


Kids from the Robert F. Kennedy School created a table-top work of art that will be displayed in Central Park

Most of the time, students are strongly discouraged from drawing on lunch tables, but a recent collaboration between the Department of Education, New York City parks and a local arts education advocacy group is flipping that idea on its face.
A program called LeAp (Learning through an Expanded Arts Program) teamed up with students at the Upper East Side’s Robert F. Kennedy middle school (110 E. 88th Street) to help them create a mosaic tile and oil paint piece of art on the top of a lunch table. The title of the piece is “Stop the Violence – Choose Peace Now,” which the students chose in order to address the issue of ending violence and bullying.

6th grade student Elizabeth Serrano

6th grade student Elizabeth Serrano

“Our table addresses violence with a focus on stopping bullying,” the students said in their collective statement about the work. “We have created images and have written out tips for peaceful options that we hope are helpful to all students and people in general. We want everybody to be peaceful.”

The work will be displayed in Central Park through August as part of the citywide exhibition “A View from the Lunchroom: Students Bringing Issues to the Table.” Two schools from each borough participated in the program, and 10 city parks will display the kids’ works, which address issues including gun violence, Hurricane Sandy, teen pregnancy, child abuse, and environment/climate change, throughout the summer.

Developed by LeAp’s Public Art Program, the sixth-annual exhibition empowers young people to have a voice in their communities by speaking out on issues of relevance to them and to become catalysts for social change through their art. Lunchroom tables are used as a canvas for this project as a symbol of student ideas and conversations.

“LeAp’s Public Art Program gives our students a citywide platform to showcase their artistic talents and generate awareness for important issues facing their communities,” said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott at the kickoff event in Union Square last Thursday, May 23. “We are thrilled to have LeAp as a partner in our efforts to enhance arts education in the schools.”

“Kids are part of our communities and experience all the same things we do but don’t have a voice. LeAp’s Public Art Program gives them a citywide platform to express themselves on issues that matter most to them,” said creator and director of LeAp’s Public Art Program Alexandra Leff. “We are so proud of our students who have taken on such major issues in thoughtful, creative and powerful ways and we are sure that the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who see these beautiful and meaningful tables citywide this summer will be enlightened and inspired,”

LeAp teaching artists worked with students to explore community issues, study the history and practice of public art, and ultimately create beautiful works of art on the surfaces of the lunchroom tables for public display. In addition, internationally-renowned Guest Artists Christo, Lorna Simpson, Mel Kendrick, Daze, George Boorujy, Emma Amos, Federico Solmi, Thomas Nozkowski, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, and Phyllis Galembo met with students at their studios, galleries or at the schools to discuss their work and the power and impact of public art.

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