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I am the pearl

Updated: May 6, 2023

We began the week at FiveMyles Gallery in Crown Heights welcoming art teacher Ms. Cassandre Midouin and her cohort of talented 9th grade artists from our partnership school The East New York High School of Arts and Civics for a visit to see Two artists: Mildred Beltré - Elisa D’Arrigo and my site-specific exhibition Inside Outside. Managing Director Dennis Buonagura and I met the group in front of the gallery where we started the discussion peering in to the PlusSpace. We carried on into the gallery where we introduced all three artists, then toured the main space discussing the materials, methods and ideas of Elisa D’Arrigo and Mildred Beltré.

Students from East New York High School of Arts and Civics drawing at FiveMyles

These young artists were engaged, focused and alert to the experience of looking at art in person. We then split the group, I brought half into my exhibition in the PlusSpace, while the others remained in the main gallery with Dennis to delve more deeply into the work and draw from the art on view.

Student drawings created from observation at FiveMyles

One enthusiastic student proclaimed: “Meridith, your exhibition is FIRE!.” Oh yes! Now that’s exactly what this hard working artist wants to hear! I can’t wait to deepen our work with these talented students and their teachers.


Later that day we were thrilled to enjoy the first session of ART YARD Advanced Studio on zoom taught by ART YARD Artist Sigrid Dolan. This session titled Natural Figures of Speech, the next installment focusing on the theme of Earth Mother / Mother Earth, had us conceptualizing visual imagery to go with linguistic phrases associated with nature and the natural world.

Sigrid presenting on zoom

Sigrid, who is currently studying at Murrow High School, prepared a thought provoking lesson which had us considering the intricacies of figurative language as it relates to nature. Abby enthuses: “Sigrid’s lesson was so sophisticated and unique. And even though we have a very supportive community, I know it can be nerve wracking verbalizing and turning an idea into a lesson. Sigrid did a fantastic job, especially with it being her first lesson💗but we’ve learned from the best, so I’m not surprised lol.”

Sigrid Dolan, Natural Figures of Speech: The World Is Your Oyster and You Are The Pearl

Marilyn August, Natural Figures of Speech: The World Is My Oyster

Sigrid recaps the session: “I felt that everybody understood my lesson very well, which was good because I have never taught before! We made work inspired by nature themed figurative language. We looked at how everyday phrases and idioms contain hidden meanings that are really quite strange if you think about it. We used symbols and word associations to create artworks that portrayed common figurative phrases to help us think deeper about our language.

I especially loved Chloe's and Abby's drawings which made me feel confused, encouraging me to think deeper about what I was seeing.

Chloe Kaas, Natural Figures of Speech: Extending The Olive Branch

Abby Johnson, Natural Figures of Speech: Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees

Karla made the New Yorkers on the zoom session chuckle with her what must be a Kansas-centric phrase “a tree as tall as a skyscraper”mixed media collage on paper.

Karla Prickett, Natural Figures of Speech: A Tree As Tall As A Skyscraper

Karla adds that driving to deliver her artwork to a gallery today she encountered a Kansas Skyscraper, the rest of the drive was more typical...

Kevin Anderson, Natural Figures of Speech: Night Owl (in progress)

Ed Rath, Natural Figures of Speech: Work Like a Donkey with The Weight of the World on my Shoulders; Free as a Bird

Meridith McNeal, Natural Figures of Speech: Eye of the Storm


On Tuesday ART YARD Advanced Studio was back in person at our studio in BWAC for the second of a three-part series taught by ART YARD Teaching Artist Vera Tineo. This session we delved deeper into mono printing techniques to create prints exploring the theme of Earth Mother / Mother Earth.

Vera presenting mono printing session

Vera asked us to consider three questions to develop our images:

· How does being in NYC effect how you see and interact with nature?

· What are parts of Mother Earth that are most vulnerable?

· What is your relationship to the non-manufactured world (nature)?

Working quickly we developed sketches which we placed under our Plexi as a guide for inking the plate. We discussed the techniques learned in the previous session including additive and subtractive inking, and ghost prints then Vera showed us several methods of working with stencils.

Many examples of monotypes made in this session (use arrows to scroll)

Vera comments: “Having this Printmaking session has really allowed me to learn the value of our community. ART YARD Artists always bring something to the table, but to see all of us grow and become better so quickly is amazing. Providing fellow artists, new skills and techniques is one of my favorite privileges of working with and participating in ART YARD Advanced Studio. I enjoy how everybody is experimenting to get to their image to their result. This class inspires me!”

Making monotypes in the studio at BWAC

Once again the AYB camaraderie and natural flow of conversation as the evening sun streamed in off the water proved the perfect atmosphere in which to make art!


An art-filled week for our students at The East New York High School of Arts and Civics where Managing Director Dennis Buonagura and Teaching Artist Fatima Traore continued working with students on their Remastering The Masters project - most moving forward to add paint and some even added collage.

Dennis recounts: “Fatima used bits of handmade paper, pieces cut from a magazine cover, and even a few shapes cut from the cover of a watercolor paper pad, and applied with clear drying glue to her Girl With The Pearl Earring (updated) painting. By working right alongside her students, Fatima offers further encouragement and inspiration.

Fatima Traore, After Vermeer

Ines added her dog Hazel to her Kahlo-like portrait; Andre and Kirk started Keith Haring pieces; Angel and Joshua are both working on variations of The Scream; and Rah-nee added collage details to Mona Lisa/Mother Nature. She chose excellent snippets from magazines and colored paper - making Mother Nature appear quite bucolic.”


Scar sings "Be Prepared" in The Lion King - and everyone at PS 17 (one of our partnership schools in Jersey City) is taking the necessary steps to do just that. Be prepared!

PS 17 artist with Scar mask

Dennis shouts – “A LOT GOING ON! Teaching Artist Fatima Traore started the work on the backdrop for the stage. Art teacher Ralph Pryzanowski laid the canvas out over paper on the floor of the art room and gesso-ed it in preparation for our after school class on Wednesday. Fatima sketched an outline of the painting made for the backdrop design with a gadget that Ralph helped her to design - a piece of graphite on the end of a big stick. Fatima (glamorous as always) drew the entire scene effortlessly and with elegance and grace. C'mon - check her out in these pictures! She certainly knows how to create art - with style. Our group of after school students participated in painting the backdrop with colors chosen and mixed by Fatima. Shoes off, hair tied up, sleeves rolled up - and all smiles while painting! A great group.

Backdrop painting in action

That might sound like a lot - but it's just a tip of the iceberg! Teaching Artist Evelyn Beliveau joined our team this week and designed, and began the creation of, a chicken wire armature for a Baby Simba prop. Students were amazed while watching her mold the wire. While I'd love to have the students partake in this project, the wire is sharp so I'm planning another route (suggestions, anyone?) but for now, Evelyn is doing the job. They started applying plaster cloth strips around the model (like working in papiermâché) - but time ran out and Baby Simba is in a safe place drying until Evelyn continues next week. They do plan to have students do the painting of the prop. In the meantime, Evelyn is also creating a prototype mask/cap combination at home for a student to try out during rehearsal. Sitting in on rehearsals gives us the opportunity to watch the choreography - and our concern is how masks will stay in place. You should have seen our faces during rehearsal when Simba did a back flip! It's a process - and a team decision.

Evelyn works on Baby Simba prop (use arrows to scroll)

Fatima worked with higher grade students to make cardboard masks; Evelyn worked with the lower grades to paint and decorate ready-made masks. Ralph created the Elephant Graveyard prop as well as a gorgeous mask-like medallion of Scar which may serve as the logo for the program and show or as a decoration for the entry of the theatre.

Painted and sculptural masks

Fatima, Evelyn and I brought our after school students to sit in on the rehearsal for a bit - which is vitally needed for all to understand the size of the stage, the choreography and other actions, and what can be seen from the back of the auditorium (thinking about prop sizes).

So much goes on in just one day, I'm sure I have forgotten to tell you some other details.”

Evelyn adds: “My first day at PS 17 was lively and productive! It was great to meet the directorial team & the art teacher, and the classes who are working on the art of The Lion King. It was a whirlwind day, with classes piling into the art room to continue projects from previous weeks or start new ones.

It was so exciting to watch the backdrop develop in the capable hands of Fatima and the after-school art group! Seeing the choreography in the after school rehearsal helped clarify some of the practical needs for the final mask designs-- in order to function onstage, masks will need to both be legible as their characters/animals AND stay securely on the actors' heads through some pretty acrobatic movements! We put our heads together and came up with a solution, combining the strong visuals from the foam samples and student watercolors that have been executed so far and the practical constraints: half-masks firmly attached to caps, with chin-straps for added security. I'll make a sample this week, and we'll go into production mode ASAP.”

Art teacher Ralph Pryzanowski, Elephant Graveyard prop


Dennis writes: “Defying Gravity” - is exactly what our 1st and 2nd graders' art did this week at ART YARD Art Matters at PS 6.

Fatima presents to 2nd graders at PS 6

We looked at lots more images of flying creatures and were reminded by our students that we forgot to include doves, flamingos, and peacocks (do peacocks fly????) - once again, who am I to disagree? We found images for them on our phones or on the smartboard which made them happy.

Using the windows as a light box

Under the guidance of Teaching Artist Fatima Traore, they drew, painted, cut, and finished the back sides of their birds and bugs - most painted one side and left them to dry to continue painting the flip side next week.”

PS 6 students hard at work

Student birds (use arrows to scroll)




Other Art News

Congratulations to ART YARD Artist Vera (Vee) Tineo whose work is on view in Becoming Unbound: Queens College CUNY MFA Annual Exhibition curated by Miama Safia Sandy on view at CULTURE LAB LIC, 5-25 46th Ave, Long Island City, NY through May 28, 2023.

Vera was thrilled that ART YARD Teaching Artists Richard Estrin and Susan Hamburger attended the opening last night. Vera enthuses: “It was so special to see them, especially since I’ve worked with them and been educated by them!!”


ART YARD Artist Evelyn Beliveau shares: “I'll be live painting and informally sharing some music paintings at the Sunday Art Hang Jam Sesh! 3-6pm at Izzy Rose, 214 Greene Ave., Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to join me!”

Evelyn Beliveau, Drawing from Live Performance


Please join me tomorrow May 6, 3-5pm at FiveMyles for the closing reception of my site specific exhibition Inside Outside. There will be excellent refreshments, with wine provided by Rocco Spagnardi, Izze sparkling fruit juice provided by Tangie Murray, home baked treats provided by Kyra Richan and Kris Bevilacqua.



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