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And the Award goes to...

Updated: Jun 18, 2023

On Monday, at our partnership school in Jersey City, PS 34, the President Barack Obama School, teaching artists Fatima Traore and Flavia Berindoague guided 1st graders in completing a series of collage works based on shapes, colors, and symbols related to their lesson on the works of Basquiat. Students used oil pastels, clear drying glue, and black paper.

Dennis tells us: “Students learned the meaning of collage and proper scissor and glue application techniques. Flavia and Fatima demonstrated the various uses of oil pastels, including utilizing the sides of each pastel to complete backgrounds.

Higher grade students (5th, 7th, 8th) followed the same pattern although some opted to continue to create drawings not intended for collage - while others drew, traced templates, arranged, and glued on to black paper.

End result of the day was a great variety of work in the style of Basquiat.”


That evening ART YARD Advanced Studio on zoom worked with ART YARD Teaching Artist Reg Lewis. The possibilities inherent in the lesson required Reg to craft two class titles in addition to multiple themes and project options: “The Clarity of Cloudy Self-Portraits: Vague yet Very Specific,” and “Brilliant Concealment/ Concealing Brilliance: The Art of Cloud Production.” Essentially, the objective was for students to create self-portraits symbolically rendered through the image of clouds.

John Constable, Rainstorm over the Sea, 1824-28

Reg presenting Essential Questions on zoom

Reg beautifully describes work created in this session: “Karla’s piece captures the complexity of human emotion as it compares to the unpredictable nature of weather; the bold use of color reveal the contrasting range expected from both in an intimate but ominous piece."

Karla Prickett, Brilliant Concealment

Karla adds: “In Salina, Monday afternoons are tornado siren testing days. I decided to look up some images posted by a friend who actually is a storm chaser and photographs, thunderstorms and tornadoes around the region. I was always fearful of tornado sirens as a child not realizing the siren west the good part and hopefully no destructive weather would follow. I decided to select this configuration of clouds, because wall clouds often develop into serious weather. They are formidable and ominous. The clouds are rolling in over the crops and fields creating a memorable horizon. Everyone’s narratives were so tied to experience and expression!”

Reg continues: "Delphine’s graphic piece documents the anguish of rising to the sheer challenge of Monday morning. Although she described the remainder of the day as incident free, everyone could relate to the dread conveyed in her amazing work.

Delphine Levenson, Brilliant Concealment

Jane’s two watercolor portraits convey a mood that suggests a pensive, melancholy, state. It feels like that internal uneasiness on the move passing through yet promising to return.

Jane Huntington, Brilliant Concealment I

Jane Huntington, Brilliant Concealment II

Although Marilyn’s dialogue bubbles give the piece a whimsical feel, she described the true purpose of the clouds as a means to shield and protect her privacy; she dislikes being the topic of gossip.

Marilyn August, Brilliant Concealment

Ed’s portrait featured a landscape that was equally as fascinating as the rain clouds. This balance of composition and contrast between dark and light conveyed the complicated extremes of human emotion.

Ed Rath, Brilliant Concealment

Meridith’s watercolor portrait served almost as a demonstration of someone’s fight for balance between an ominous darkness and optimism, ultimately which a triumph of the light. It’s as if the piece gave voice to the phrase “this too shall pass.” Essentially, it feels like a work of art expressing hope.

Meridith McNeal, Brilliant Concealment

Reg created a piece that demonstrates how concealment can be both externally imposed as well as self-imposed. Ultimately, his personal light and vision are dimmed by the weight of his social obligations as he continues to find a way to shine.

Reg Lewis, Brilliant Concealment

Paradoxically, the work produced by the participating artists presented a great deal of clarity through their impressive clouds.”


Tuesday at PS 34, the President Barack Obama School, in Jersey City, our first grade students worked very diligently on their pieces but 45 minute classes fly by so quickly that sometimes students require assistance. Dennis recounts: “Students cut and arranged their pieces on black paper. Teaching Artist Fatima Traore, Flavia Berindoague and I glued shapes from their Basquiat themed drawings onto the paper to ultimately exhibit as collages.

Flavia and Fatima present lesson at PS 34, the President Barack Obama School

Students at work and sharing completed pieces

Later in the day, the three classes of higher grade students continued their Basquiat inspired portraits by adding symbols, shapes, and just overall enhanced and finished their pieces in time for exhibition.”

Basquiat inspired portrait

Sabrina, Basquiat inspired portrait


That evening in person at our studio at BWAC in Red Hook ART YARD Advanced Studio jumped in to our second part of a book arts lesson, we started by admiring the previous week's books.

Admiring last weeks books

Iviva then led technical demonstrations on how to make an accordion book and a pamphlet book. We had used these same structures the previous week. To introduce change, Iviva showed how to cut windows into an accordion and create pop-out elements, and re-emphasized the idea of starting with an unfolded paper, treating it as a drawing or painting surface, and then folding it into one of the book forms. Vera had embraced this idea in the first session; Golnar and Ed tried it this week. Iviva enthuses: “The surprises that arise from this technique can make bookmaking more like a puzzle and a game!”

Jules Lorenzo, Nature/Nurture (book)

Golnar Adili, Nature/Nurture (book)

Abby Johnson, Nature/Nurture (book)

Assia Adili, Spooky Witch (book)

Assia Adili, Meridith and her Cat Rik (book)

Great focus

Ed Rath, Place of Comfort and Security (book)

Vera at work

Vera Tineo, Place of Comfort and Security (book)

Iviva also reiterated themes of nature/nurture, encouraging participants to depict spaces, experiences, relationships and people with whom or where we have felt nurtured and safe.

The view from the ART YARD studio at BWAC never disappoints


Dennis sums up the amazing accomplishments in ART YARD Art Matters at PS 17: “I wore many hats this week especially at PS 17, one of our Jersey City partnership schools.

Teaching artists Evelyn Beliveau, Fatima Traore and I hosted several classes about mural designs. A plan for next season at the school is to paint a mural on a wall in the school yard - which requires a lot of planning - and we offered students the opportunity to come up with ideas and designs. They viewed some of the works of Tessa O’Brien, which are mostly floral in design. The creative team of students came up with ideas such as: diversity and equality; education; eagles soaring (the eagle is the school’s symbol); and a view of New York from Jersey City which includes the Statue of Liberty.

Tess O'Brien, Night Garden, Falmouth, ME Latex on wood, 2020

Fatima presenting the work of Tess O'Brien

Student preliminary mural designs & Evelyn presenting to the class


With the assistance of a few 7th graders - and Evelyn - I hung students’ work in the auditorium as an impromptu “Art Of The Lion King” exhibit - for parents, family members, students, teachers, administrative staff to view upon arrival to the “opening night” performance of The Lion King.

Dennis installing in the auditorium at PS 17

After classes, we went backstage (the cafeteria) while make up was being applied to help secure the masks/headpieces on the performer heads. They did have adjustable backs but some performers needed hairpins for additional adjustment.

PS 17 students in theatrical make up

Fatima and Evelyn flank all five Rafikis

Amidst much excitement, it was suddenly showtime! Audience members poured in and our team took side orchestra seats with a perfect view. The backdrop, masks, and the Baby Simba prop looked fantastic and the performers were beyond spectacular. There surely could be no bloopers tape because there was not one flub! Singing, dancing, acting - all superb.

AND for me - it was very much like Broadway and the Metropolitan Opera used to be - we were asked to stand for our national anthem before the performance began (a beautiful rendition by the show’s director Maya Reyes). Please tell me someone else remembers when that used to happen! As a product of the public school system, it was quite nostalgic for me (I was in the ”color guard” and carried the flag on assembly day - once upon a time).

PS 17 Lion King Director Maya Reyes and a Pride of Lions!

Congrats to all at PS 17 on a great production.

Oh - and did you know that we are the winners of a Tony award? I accepted the award on behalf of ART YARD BKLYN - and, of course, share it with Evelyn and Fatima. Truly, none of this would have been possible without them.”


An excellent reception was held this week at our ART YARD Art Matters partnership school PS 6 in Jersey City (our FIRST partnership school in JC, that is) for our annual gallery event. Thanks to Principal Joe Apruzzese and Assistant Principal Lauren Faccone for orchestrating the opening by inviting many JC VIPs and providing snacks and drinks for our guests - and for our fantastic docents.

Dennis started the day early by tweaking some of the works installed last week - and rearranged some labels to be sure they'd be eye-level for both adults and children – and tidying up the gallery - and organizing the supply closet in our art room in order to be ready for action come September. Dennis explains: “The ART YARD dream team joined me - Teaching Artists Evelyn Beliveau, Fatima Traore, and Sarah Gumgumji - and Meridith McNeal.

Dennis tidies up the gallery before the opening

I met with our docent group about 45 minutes prior to the opening to recap what they'd learned the week before, and to bring a 'stand in' docent up to speed - Amityush - who was EXCELLENT, with such short notice and training. Congratulations and THANKS to Roshni, Devanshi, Sofia, Sadie, Vihaan, Abdul Wali and Abdul Hadi - not only for their dedication (by reviewing and practicing at home all week in preparation) but for their endurance (the opening was 3 hours - plus!) by performing their duties with very little breaks.

Visitors included Dr. Robert Brower Principal at PS 17 (another ART YARD partnership school); Magda Savino, Assistant Superintendent, Division A; Dr. Janine Anderson, Principal at PS 22; Mr. David Gibbons, Special Education Supervisor; Ms. Jody Zaleck, Special Education Supervisor; Mrs. Jennifer Valdora, Special Education Lead Teacher; Joe Bernero, retired Assistant Principal of PS 12; PS 6's fabulous Art Teacher Mrs. Tardiff, as well as many of the school's teachers, students, administrative staff members - and most especially the parents and family members of our docents who were able to take time from their busy schedules to support our program. Everyone one of the parents and family members said things like: "I had no idea that my child accomplished so much" and "All I hear about is ART YARD at PS 6". Our comment book was loaded with beautiful heartfelt compliments!”

Use arrows to scroll through images of our opening at PS 6

Thanks to all who made this event a success!”


Today at PS 34, the President Barack Obama School, in Jersey City, Teaching Artist Fatima Traore, Flavia Berindoague introduced the book Life Doesn't Frighten Me in which Maya Angelou’s unforgettable poem is matched with the art of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Students read aloud from the book.

Each artist received a slip of paper with a line from Maya Angelou's poem, which they incorporated into their drawings in the manner of Jean-Michele Basquiat.

Student drawing inspired by Basquiat incorporating text from Life Doesn't Frighten Me

Student drawing inspired by Basquiat incorporating text from Life Doesn't Frighten Me

Student drawing inspired by Basquiat incorporating text from Life Doesn't Frighten Me

Students presented their work from the front of the room for critique.


Registration is now open for

ART YARD Summer Session 2023

Do Something! Art as Activism


We are excited that on Thursday June 26th of ART YARD Summer Session 2023 we will participate in a Tree Chuang workshop with workshop with Artist Xinan Ran.


Other Art News

Art Book Review

Next month with ART YARD Summer Session 2023 we will roll out our next theme: Do Something! Art as Activism.

Preparing for our new focus, I just finished It Was Vulgar and It Was Beautiful: How AIDS Activists Used Art to Fight a Pandemic by Jack Lowery (Bold Type Books, 2022). This important history of the artist activists of Act Up, Gran Fury, The Mary’s and more, all fighting for change through their work is well told, clear, engaging, and expansive. At times heart-wrenching and poignant, I think it is an important chronicle which I recommend reading!

Installation view of Everything Is Connected: Art and Conspiracy at the MetBreuer, 2019

Above are examples (all discussed in the book) of protest posters created in the first decade of the AIDS epidemic by members of two political collectives, the Silence = Death Project and Gran Fury, the latter of which served as the artistic arm of ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), an advocacy group the activist Larry Kramer helped to form in March 1987 to drive visibility of the ongoing crisis and spur political action to find a cure.


In conjunction with my exhibition Brooklyn Queen: Magical Things e altri dipinti di Meridith McNeal at la Dama de Capestrano in Abruzzo, Italy, you are invited to join me on zoom for a Meet the Artist conversation on zoom (in English & Italian) with Meridith McNeal and Catherine de Zágon. The event will be projected into the gallery during the opening reception in Italy on Sunday, June 18, 2023 from 1:15 PM – 2:15 PM (Brooklyn Time!).



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