Creativity has spilled forth from the classrooms of P.S. 8 and found its way onto the walls of the Urban Folk Art Gallery, thanks to the “How’s the Weather?” exhibition that features dozens of landscape paintings and drawings by first-grade students from the Brooklyn Heights elementary school.
The group show marks the end of a 14-week workshop held at P.S. 8 in conjunction with the Manhattan-based teaching arts organization Studio in a School. Teaching artist Belinda Blum collaborated with P.S. 8 teachers Carolyn Saffady, Sjene Kendrick, Mackenzie Field, Sandy Long and Matthew Levy to provide a comprehensive visual arts program shaped by concepts from the students’ first-grade curriculum.
“We thought about what we were teaching in our curriculum and then what naturally lends itself to artistic expression,” Saffady explained.
Science became a focal point of the workshop, as the students learned how to portray different types of weather conditions with pencils and paint. The program progressed from simple pencil sketches to painted landscapes with horizon lines and varied brushstrokes.
“They were studying weather and cloud formations so the teachers and I decided that we were going to make this really about the process of mark making through drawing and painting,” Blum noted.
Blum, who is a Gowanus-based oil painter, has conducted Studio in a School workshops at P.S. 8 since 2006. However, this year marks the first time that her residency has culminated with a group show in a local gallery. The idea came from Saffady, whose boyfriend is Urban Folk Art Gallery co-owner/curator Adam Suerte.
“She is very art-inclined and was just thinking of a way to end it on a great note,” Suerte said, noting that the gallery setting gives the students a “nice context” in which to see their art.
“I think it is amazing that the kids get to see their work outside of the school,” Saffady added. “It is really special for them.”
The young artists seemed truly thrilled to tour the gallery and view their artwork when they stopped by on a class outing last week.
“I’m excited,” said P.S. 8 student Numa Fiorentino, who was accompanied by his mother, Emy Gargiulo. He described his painting as “very rainy and stormy,” an effect he achieved with a technique taught by Blum during the workshop. “She said we could use the back of our brushes to make the rain,” he explained.
“Belinda (Blum) is particularly good with bringing out the best of their skills,” added Gargiulo. “They are starting to be little artists and are really proud of the work.”
Several students enthusiastically spoke about their paintings during a group discussion led by Blum on the morning of their gallery visit. These moments of reflecting and sharing together have been another integral part of the program, as they have given students the opportunity to practice new vocabulary and observe each others’ work. The children also had occasion to express themselves through writing during the workshop, as each penned a short paragraph that is on display alongside their work. This exercise was formulated to help them strengthen their literacy skills and provide them with a channel to describe their creative process.
“It’s amazing – these kids have so much to say,” Blum noted. “They wrote about the process a lot and the choices that they made.”
The gallery exhibition has added yet another layer of learning to the workshop this year, as it has allowed for the students to experience the community beyond their classroom in an innovative and engaging way.
“At this age they’re really trying to understand their community, so it helps them learn that their community expands for them outside their school,” Blum said.
Gallery visitors can even provide the young artists with feedback via a signing book that will be shared with the students at the conclusion of the show. “How’s the Weather?” will be up through May 19th at the Urban Folk Art Gallery located on 101 Smith Street.
Photos by Lori Singlar for the Brooklyn Bugle