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Perspectives For Families

Back to School: P.S. Art 2023

Explore the annual exhibition where New York City's young artists take center stage.

Sep 25, 2023

Painting of a young woman with a baby on her back looking into the distance.

One of the Museum’s most heartfelt exhibitions is currently on view in the hallways surrounding the newly opened 81st Street StudioP.S. Art 2023: Celebrating the Creative Spirit of New York City Kids, this year’s commemoration of achievement in the arts in New York City public schools, showcases 122 works across mediums by young artists from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in all five boroughs, including students from District 75.

To inspire young artists and teachers across the city as they head back to school, we decided to share a selection of great works included in the show.

Surprised! by Destiny Asare

Portrait of a young girl with a surprised expression.

Grade: PreK
Materials: Mixed media
School: P.S. 63 The STAR Academy, Manhattan
Teacher: Risa Schneider

Destiny Asare (Student):
I’m an artist, and I worked hard to make this look the way I wanted. When people see this, I want them to feel happy because they can see me and how I look when I feel surprised. I like to make art because it’s my favorite—because you can make different things.

Risa Schneider (Teacher):
Students learned that artists experiment with media, use close observation to depict themselves, pay attention to mood and emotion, and make artistic choices. They looked closely at portraits and self-portraits by Elizabeth Catlett, Frida Kahlo, Kehinde Wiley, and Beauford Delaney, identifying emotions conveyed through the artists’ use of facial expressions and colors. Using mirrors, they noted changes in their faces as they made a series of different expressions. Each selected an expression to use to portray themselves. They sketched in pencil and then marker. Working with oil pastels, they developed their skin tones, features, hair and clothing. Ink stampers were used in their backgrounds further enhancing the mood of their self-portraits. Destiny’s expression is very animated. She captured the emotion of surprise with her wide-open mouth, raised eyebrows, and widened eyes. She worked blending oil pastels to capture her skin tone and features. Destiny layered blue into her hair to represent the blue braids that were part of her hairstyle at that time.

A Community Called Bushwick by Antonio Rodriguez-Zambrono

 Collage of colorful buildings on an orange background.

Grade: 2
Materials: Collage
School: P.S. 376 Felisa Rincón De Gautier School of Technology, Brooklyn
Teacher: Luna Velazquez

Antonio Rodriguez-Zambrono (Student):
I want people to think about what I am making. What kind of community is this? It is an urban community which has lots of buildings. It is always sunny in Bushwick. The urban community of the future will be very, very, very sunny.

Luna Velazquez (Teacher):
The theme of this unit was to create a collage cityscape of the student’s block. Students learned to cut shapes, overlap paper, and apply glue. They took inspiration from The Block, by Romare Bearden, and observed and sketched their own block. Students were inspired by the fact that Bearden’s work was about the love and support of family and community. He maintained that one of the most important aspects of life and culture is ritual: the many customs that are part of everyday and that help to bond the community together. Students were observant of the things they saw everyday and created a visual map of their own community. Antonio practices his art with discipline and pride. Every line is carefully constructed, as if he is retracing each step taken through his neighborhood. It is a pleasure to watch Antonio’s process and see the pure joy that art gives him.

Found Object Nevelson by Tajrian Azra, Amari Lewis, Sarai Milien, and Ella Williams

Work featuring objects glued together and painted gold.

Grade: 2
Materials: Painted found objects
School: P.S. 235 Janice Marie Knight School, Brooklyn
Teacher: Kathlyn Wilson

Tajrian Azra (Student):
I want to be an artist when I grow up. When people look at my artwork I want them to wonder how I made it. I worked hard on my sculpture and enjoyed collecting things to use in my work that are unique to me.

Amari Lewis (Student):
Our artwork shows we can work together and change the world. Louise Nevelson recycled objects like wood, plastic, and metal from construction sites and painted it so it looks like they belong together.

Sarai Milien (Student):
When people look at my artwork I want them to say, “Hmmm...I’ve never seen anything like this before. It’s so mysterious!” and to realize that old stuff that doesn’t seem useful can be turned into something beautiful.

Ella Williams (Student):
When people look at this artwork I hope they feel that they want to be creative and that they will never give up. This project is about recycling but it is also about celebrating Women’s History Month.

Kathlyn Wilson (Teacher):
Second graders explored Louise Nevelson’s found-object sculptures. They collected items from home that would otherwise have been thrown away. This added a component of recycling to the unit. They were excited and motivated to have a personal connection to the objects in their work. Students decided on compositions, paying attention to the sizes of the objects. They layered them in a balanced way before gluing. Groups selected a metallic paint color for the entire sculpture. Tajrian, Amari, Sarai, and Ella impressed me. They selected objects and composed them in a unified manner as they paid tribute to Nevelson for Women’s History Month.

Calm Place by Jena King

Painting of a forest in winter with bare trees and a gray background

Grade: 5
Materials: Tempera
School: P.S. 330 Helen M. Marshall School, Queens
Teacher: Melissa Potwardski

Jena King (Student):
When people look at my painting, I want them to feel curious about the forest and the wonders inside. I like to make art because it is relaxing to me. I can create what I want, and there’s no wrong answer. Calm Place was made by a kid who works hard and is trying to help her family.

Melissa Potwardski (Teacher):
For this unit, our goal was to create a snowy winter landscape. Students learned about foreground, middle ground, and background; varying the sizes of trees; and how to mix tones of gray to create the illusion of depth in the painting. Jena’s composition creates an inviting entranceway into the painting, bringing the viewer into a calm forest with softly falling snow. Jena is gifted both artistically and academically. She is goal-oriented and highly creative. These characteristics are continually reflected in her artwork.

Stroll in the Park by Kamarie Wilson

Silhouette of a bear decorated with patterns on an orange background.

Grade: 5
Materials: Construction paper
School: P.S. 15 The Jackie Robinson School, Queens
Teacher: Serrena Hospedales-Brown

Kamarie Wilson (Student):
When people look at my artwork, I would like them to think that it was made perfectly. I would like them to think about how it was made and what materials I used. I like to use bright colors like orange because I want my work to stand out. I chose to create a bear because the bear is large and easier to cut out. I wanted to make my work neat and large. I practiced creating the artwork, and I worked hard to make it unique. I like using a lot of colors when creating animals or humans. I like how animals can look like humans sometimes.

Serrena Hospedales-Brown (Teacher):
Students were inspired by the artist Norval Morrisseau to create animal construction-paper collages using concentric organic shapes to fill the animal silhouettes. Norval Morrisseau was an Indigenous Canadian artist from the Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek First Nation in Ontario, Canada. Students studied the artist to research animals and designs to construct their own animal designs. They applied their knowledge of available resources, tools, and technologies to investigate personal ideas through their artmaking process.

Warmth in the Cold by Abu Bakr Alshataf

Drawing of figures against a colorful background

Grade: 6
Materials: Paint and pastel on paper
School: P.S. 231, District 75, Brooklyn
Teacher: Frank Anderson

Abu Bakr Alshataf (Student):
Making marks makes me feel powerful. I feel relaxed using thick flowing, brushstrokes. My diagonal lines lead me to exciting moods. Choosing marks helps me focus and experience thick, fun brushstrokes and flowing contours with power and calmness. Mr. Frank taught me to identify many mark and mood symbols. Now I can choose the ones that I need to make fun things and people. I learned to use symbolic communication boards to help me communicate many marks and moods with my classmates. Sharing with classmates made me feel happy. My challenge was designing my figures to express their power. I contrasted the background’s straight, thick brushstrokes with thin, curving and flowing impressions. The thin, curvy lines made each figure unique and exciting. They lifted the figures like they were flying. Sparse figure dabs made a rhythm that made me feel free and strong.

Frank Anderson (Teacher):
We discussed how Can Fire in the Park, by Beauford Delaney, described his struggles linked to the Great Depression and the deprivation of Black Americans. We identified the Cubist foreground design that expresses an unstable bleakness, and how his bright background planes contrasted to emphasize the figurative brushwork. Abu Bakr answered questions about his artwork using descriptive sentences and circling multiple choice symbolic answers. As Abu Bakr created his own organizational space his brushstrokes and marks created a dramatic artwork. He expressed a powerful interpretation about the Great Depression text he had studied. His wide background marks diagonally intersect foreground marks to emphasize key powerful figures. His pure color gestural brushstrokes create an expression of self-empowerment. They contrasted with his figures’ subtle curvy impressionist marks to create a feeling of vulnerability and defiance. Abu Bakr’s figures provides an empowering mood about people handling struggle. His pure brushwork provides the viewer with a fresh bold and joyful expression for handling life’s challenges.

Josiah and Ben by Josiah Lessie

Painting of a boy sitting at a red kitchen table holding a picture of another boy.

Grade: 8
Materials: Graphite, colored pencil, and watercolor
School: P.S. 77, District 75, Brooklyn
Teacher: Amie Robinson

Josiah Lessie (Student):
Being able to draw well makes me feel really proud. Art allows me to express myself, and this portrait represents me. I am wearing my favorite SpongeBob hoodie, and my hair was just braided; I love the way it looks. I chose to draw myself in the kitchen because I like to make food for myself. I included my favorite foods. There’s Gatorade in the fridge and a chicken burger on the table. In my portrait I am holding a picture of my best friend, Ben. Ms. Robinson knows I love using colored pencils, and for this project she showed me how to use watercolor pencils. She also showed me new drawing techniques and encouraged me to keep going. One of the most challenging things about this portrait was getting my right skin tone. I carefully looked in the mirror. It was also difficult drawing all the food in the refrigerator. I worked hard to get all of the details because I want to be a cartoonist when I grow up.

Amie Robinson (Teacher):
This artwork was created for a unit exploring positive self-identity through expressive portraiture. Josiah’s attention to detail is impressive. Originally, he left a lot of negative space around his face. We discussed adding a foreground and background. When he placed himself in a kitchen, it immediately reminded me of the painting Yvonne and James II by Jordan Casteel. I showed the work to Josiah, and he was inspired to add the portrait of his best friend. Josiah is an exemplary student. He challenges himself to explore new artists and materials and is never afraid to ask questions. He has incredible observational and technical drawing skills. His own unique style truly expresses his personality. His beautiful attention to color and detail capture a moment in time and tell a story of friendship.

Fantastical Landscape by Asha Rivera

Drawing of four frogs on a green table with a plate, glass, and spoon.

Grade: 9
Materials: Collagraph print and colored pencil
School: Summer Arts Institute
Teacher: Maria Bonilla

Asha Rivera (Student):
I’ve trained myself to be observant of small details. This ability also applies to academics. I feel that attentiveness to detail is essential in most situations. My former middle-school art teacher, Mrs. Julia Snyder, encouraged all her students to expand their skill sets across all media. Being in her class in sixth and eighth grades gave me the chance to wander freely from experimenting with colors to making things with my hands. It helped me realize where my strengths lie. In this artwork, I was challenged to create a landscape with color, but I needed to steer away from simply replicating the reference photo. Although the prompt suggested fantastical elements, I still put more of myself in this art piece.

Maria Bonilla (Teacher):
In this SAI printmaking unit, students explored ideas about real and imaginary landscapes and how artists show space. Students planned and created collagraph plates that demonstrated unique perspectives. They printed editions of prints that they embellished with colored pencils creating rich images that expressed personal views. My co-teacher, Katherine Huala, and I were very impressed with Asha’s print. Asha really put her drafting skills to work in creating the plate, and after printing her edition, she continued to use a great color palette, as she embellished the print with her drawing. Asha is talented young artist who works hard to make her art expressive.

Cracked by Anna Krylova

Black and white photograph of a cracked shell.

Grade: 10
Materials: Photograph
School: Tottenville High School, Staten Island
Teacher: Elle LaRocca-Vonroth

Anna Krylova (Student):
Being an artist made a huge difference in my life because it gave me a way to express my emotions and ideas. My art teacher played a role in my creative development by giving me an assignment in a medium that I don’t usually work in, that being photography. When making this artwork, I debated which shell to edit in this way. Initially, I wanted to use a normal shell for this, a nice and smooth one. But I decided to use a cracked shell instead, because imperfection is what brings beauty to life.

Elle LaRocca-Vonroth (Teacher):
The lesson that elicited the student work concerned the use of natural light in photography and its ability to capture fine details of the photographer’s subject. Anna understands that there is true beauty in simplicity and light. She was able to uncover and transform the shape and form of an ordinary object in her photograph, Cracked, inspiring the viewer to take a second look at the beauty that surrounds us.

The Exhausted Parent by Jacqueline German

Painting of a man asleep on a blue couch.

Grade: 12
Materials: Acrylic on canvas
School: Edward R. Murrow High School, Brooklyn
Teacher: Carlos Rosado

Jacqueline German (Student):
Through art, I have been able to overcome the fears and hesitations I’ve had about taking creative chances. By problem solving large, complex paintings, I have gained the confidence to take on more challenges in- and outside of art. I used to get nervous at the start of a new project. Mr. Rosado helped me break down each part of the process of so that I didn’t overwhelm myself. This painting was one of the most ambitious and largest artworks I ever have tried. I spent a lot of time in the planning stages. I made countless studies for several parts of the painting I felt were going to be the most difficult, to help me understand how to paint those areas. I spent as much time as possible in the painting studio to complete the painting.

Carlos Rosado (Teacher):
Students were tasked with creating a painting that explored a figure in space that also revealed an intimate moment in time. We studied works of Johannes Vermeer, John Singer Sargent, and Alex Venezia. Students examined how artists composed and staged their paintings to create an image that captures their connection to subject. In her painting of her father resting, Jacqueline displays a keen understanding of composition, color, form, and painting technique while highlighting the subject’s humanity.

Chasing Tomorrow by Prisca Boadu

Painting of a young woman with a baby on her back looking into the distance.

Grade: 11
Materials: Acrylic on canvas
School: Renaissance High School for Musical Theater & the Arts, Bronx
Teacher: Sai Varadan

 Prisca Boadu (Student):
From a very early age, I struggled with expressing my thoughts, considering how introverted I was. My art has helped me grow and evolve into a confident person. My art classes and teacher have given me an amazing group of lifelong friends who I feel comfortable creating with. Being an artist is what I am, and it makes me proud. Mr. Sai is a source of inspiration. The assignments in his Advanced Studio Art class encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone. I began experimenting with charcoal, watercolor, and pastel. I was shocked. I knew I loved creating art, but I never imagined myself working with such a variety of media. Mr. Sai’s energy and creativity have helped me academically and artistically. I cannot thank him enough. This was my first time painting people on a large scale. I wanted the eyes to tell a deep story, and I feel that I accomplished this by working through layers and remaining patient. My teacher constantly tells us that painting is a process and that we must trust that process.

Sai Varadan (Teacher):
Advanced Studio Art is a select class of twenty-five students. This piece was completed as part of our Black History Month unit. As an immigrant from Ghana, Prisca followed the many assignment prompts but executed the artwork in her own signature style. Prisca excels at realism. She wanted to depict the cultural heritage of Ghana by visually saying more with less. The mother symbolizes a person working hard for a better future for herself and her child. This statement symbolizes who Prisca is as an artist and as a young Black woman. Her piece showcases her creative use of contrast, blending, layering, and proportion and is highlighted with beautiful brown skin tones. I am extremely proud to be her teacher and mentor.

Magpie by Sophia Gibbins

Sculpture of black birds bursting out of a pie with a lattice top.

Grade: 12
Materials: Mixed media
School: Edward R. Murrow High School, Brooklyn
Teacher: Sarah Holcomb

Sophia Gibbins (Student):
Art allows me to express myself in a way that does not require words and allows me to explain only what I want to about my thoughts, rather than risk someone creating a narrative for me. Ms. Holcomb gives us prompts that are creative and loose, allowing us to create what we want from them. This has allowed my identity as an artist to take root. I struggled with texture and material. I know at the end you always put a sprinkle of sugar on top of a pie, but I had a hard time finding a sugar-like material that wouldn’t attract ants. I landed on white sand and sprinkled it on to signal that the pie was officially complete.

Sarah Holcomb (Teacher):
Sophia is in our school’s Art Institute and, like other senior students, is enrolled in Advanced Placement Art and Design and working on her portfolio as a culmination of her years at Murrow. Students select a concept or thesis and build a body of work around their conceptual theme. Sophia has taken huge risks as a young artist, pushing herself beyond her own boundaries of art making. Her ability to work in both 2D and 3D shows her versatility as an artist. Her work is fun and unique.

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Managing Editor and Producer