P.S. Art 2007, at the Department of Education, 52 Chambers Street, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. through August 24.
The student art exhibit now displayed on the ground floor of Tweed Courthouse, near City Hall, could be described very accurately, and lovingly, as the city’s largest refrigerator door.
Displaying remarkable artwork from public school students in kindergarten through 12th grade, P.S. Art 2007 is a showcase of talent from all five boroughs, and an encouraging sign that arts education is not lost in New York City, though the public school system is still rebounding from citywide cutbacks dating back to the 1970s. Currently, the system has just one licensed music teacher for every 1,154 students, and hundreds of schools have no licensed arts specialists at all, according to The Center for Arts Education.
This exhibition, however, demonstrates that creativity and talent can survive under any circumstance. The 58 pieces of original artwork, selected from more than 600 submissions, were chosen by a panel including the Museum of Modern Art’s deputy director of education, Wendy Woon, and East Harlem-based painter and printmaker Julio Valdez. The artworks range from charcoal sketches to watercolor, oil on canvas to photography, and from crayon to buttons and glue. The most common subject is the self, with multiple self-portraits populating the intimate rotunda where these works are displayed.
~Some pieces are accompanied by quotes from the artists. Antigona Halili, a 13-year-old eighth grader from Brooklyn declares, “I’m not afraid of taking risks in art.” Her mixed-media piece tackles the subject of body image for adolescent girls. From an over-the-shoulder vantage point, we see a thin girl looking in the mirror, and her overweight reflection staring back. Set in the girl’s bedroom, we can see that the first item on the To-Do list on her desk is “lose weight,” and in the photo hanging above her desk she’s the only one standing sideways, in an effort to hide her perceived obesity.
There are other serious pieces, including a lovely sketch of the World Trade Center, and there are also several fun and light-hearted pieces including a sculpture of a sneaker made out of wire and shoelaces.
~Many of the older students’ artworks look exceptionally polished and professional, and the potential that practically jumps from nearly every canvas is impressive and inspiring. The heart of the exhibition, however, is summed up in a quote by Kira Viera, a 5-year-old kindergartner from Manhattan, who also created a self-portrait. “When people see my painting,” she says, “they are going to feel good and like it.”
The P.S. Art exhibit series began in 2002. The summer’s show is sponsored by Bank of America, and after it closes many of the pieces will be displayed in bank branches around the city.