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We Choose to Play!

Updated: Apr 28, 2021

Teaching Artist Jane Huntington was very busy with ART YARD this week! For ART YARD Advanced Studio she invited her friend artist Maraya Lopez, aka Lucas Berd from BerdsCarnival to present her work as inspiration for the session. Maraya has three aspects to her work: studio, collaborative projects, and strategies. This week she showed two of her community arts projects–the “Magic Machine Residency” in Coney Island (2015) and “Coney Island in El Bario” (2018).

BerdsCarnival, “Magic Machine Residency”, Coney Island (2015)
BerdsCarnival, Game Paintings

Both projects had similar themes: working with the local community and other artists to address issues affecting the community in the age of gentrification through a series of playful interactions. She brought in food vendors serving dress mangos and ices, had guest artists in residence, and games. In the El Bario piece she brought in a Luchador to interact with the community in Spanish. Artist in residence Bryan Pettigrew did a performance as a “Psychic Pirate” and read peoples fortunes.

Integral to this work Maraya made sure everyone who played left with a prize - “Game Paintings” a unique piece made using stencils on reclaimed materials such as cardboard. Jane based this week’s project on the use of stencils in creating “Game Paintings”. By using stencils, the artists were to create three unique pieces with the same stencils.

Ed cut out a spider in a web and went to his roof to spray paint the results.

Ed Rath, Yellow Spidern Stencil
Ed Rath, Red Spider Stencil

Kevin cut out cloud shapes and created abstract views of how the colors of Coney Island felt.

Kevin Anderson, Coney Island Stencils

Maraya used her fingers to create Coney Island themed puns.

BerdsCarnival, Coney Island Stencils

Both August and Jane used the Coney Island Smiling face as the basis for thier works.

August Levenson, Coney Island Stencil Drawing
Jane Huntington, Coney Island Stencils

Sigrid used both elements from her stencils–both the cut out area and stencil to create her party based works.

Sigrid Dolan, Coney Island Stencils

Keeping with the party them, Marilyn used the 3 stencils to create three pieces.

Marilyn August, Coney Island Stencils

Instead of using a stencil to paint inside the stencil, I painted around the outside of my stenciled hula hoops and in the final piece made a collage of the stencils (which I think made for a dynamic image!).

Meridith McNeal, Hoops Stencils

Jacob used color blocking with his umbrellas using reclaimed cardboard and paint, keeping true to the lesson’s theme.

Jacob Rath, Umbrella Stencils

Vera took a different approach–she made outlines using her arms shadow, and then painted in the resulting outlines.

Vera Tineo, Helping Hands at Coney Island Stencil

In observance of Ramadan, Sarah made a beautiful minuerette stencil, and an ice cream cone in ode to Coney Island.

Sarah Gumgumji, Ramadan Stencils
Sarah Gumgumji, Coney Island Stencil

Karla, who joins us from Kansas, muses: “Coney Island seems a “must experience” kind of place! Carnival rides, games and side shows all bring a nostalgia...mixing reality and perceptions...chance and the obvious. Ferris wheels are iconic to carnivals. I decided to use them for my inspiration, gathering round lids to use as circular stencils. My “prize” pieces are created on oversized 1920’s playing cards using sharpie markers and cut imagery. Lines echo the complex steel geometry of the Ferris wheel structure.

I incorporated the phrase “Choose to Play” as a statement about the importance of having fun! I hope I captured a bit of the nostalgic feel of this NY landmark in, yes, August...Black, White and Red!!”

Karla Prickett, Choose to Play Coney Island Stencils

Pat was able to join for the presentation and lesson, then made her work later in the week. She writes: “Here are my stencil projects! The only paint I had on hand was watercolors, which led to some unpredictability in stenciling (at least with my skill level). I figured I'd sit back and let the watercolors tell me what they wanted to do. The flower and dinosaur stencils are traced from objects I had lying around (a coaster whose shape sort of suggested popcorn kernels or maybe fireworks, and a plastic dinosaur toy whose shape definitely suggested a roller coaster--maybe powered by fossil fuels). I created the bowling pin stencil from scratch--I liked the shape, and the potential for making multiples; as the project went on, the bowling pins felt more and more like human beings to me. The viewer is welcome to interpret that as they wish--that's more meaning than I expected for what is ostensibly "just" a Coney Island prize!

Thank you to Jane and to Lucas Berd (Maraya) for a fun project and for sharing the Magic Machine with us! I appreciated the opportunity to think about Coney Island from several different perspectives--the threat of gentrification, visitors' comments about (no) color and mass production of prizes, seeing kids get to be barkers and do their thing, mangoes on a stick...mmm...mangoes on a stick...”

Pat Larash, Coney Island Stencils

On Wednesday at ART YARD Art Matters at PS 282 Teaching Artist Jane Huntington kicked off a new cycle of lessons with a variation on her stencil making session aimed at our 4-8 year old little artists. It was a very successful manifestation and all of our students were completely engaged in their work!

PS 282 first and second graders at work on Zoom (and my studio!)

Jane encouraged us to try out a variety of shapes – hearts, stars, circles, squares, butterflies, and even crazy abstract forms. After creating many stencil shapes we all created a final stencil by tracing our own hands.

Meridith hand stencil sample
Lola, PS282 Stencils
Stencils come in handy!
William, PS282 Stencils
August, PS282 Stencils
Rhys, PS282 Stencils
June, PS282 Stencil
PS282 student hard at work on stencils

Lucy shared her compliments at the end of critique: “I liked everybody’s work because of the colors of paper and shapes and I liked how nobody made exactly the same thing as each other.”

Lucy, PS282 Stencils
Lucas, PS282 Stencils
Max carefully cutting stencils
Sabrina, PS282 Stencils
John, PS282 Stencils

Another student showered Jane with the high praise – “This was so much FUN!!”

For step-by-step instruction of how to make a stencil please check out this week’s video!


Working with Dennis and Sarah Teaching Artist Iviva Olenick was back at ART YARD Art Matters at PS 6 for the second session in with a class called Memory Maps.

Today at PS6, students worked on their second map drawing depicting a place they've been one or more times in the past year. The class began by looking at an image of a map by Alberto Bursztyn. Students had keen observations about the silhouetted birds overhead, the hand-drawn buildings in color, and the printed aspects of the map.

Alberto Bursztyn, Mixed Media Map
Iviva Olenick, Memory Map sample

Iviva explains: “After a full year of quarantine, our daily routines have changed, and we no longer necessarily walk the same paths. This lesson is devoted to mapping our memories of local or distant travels to places we know and remember, where we experience a strong sense of connection and community."

Manish, PS6 Memory Map
Harshita, PS6 Memory Map
Ved, PS6 Memory Map
Harini, PS6 Memory Map
Student Memory Map in progress
Aarna PS6 shares work during critique
Aarna, PS6 memory map

"We made 3 separate maps, starting with a memory map of a place we haven’t visited recently, moving on to a map of a path we are currently taking, and ending with a dream map of a place we wish to visit. It was up to the artist to depict an imagined place, one we know about and haven’t yet visited, or another place we’ve not been recently.”

Yashas, PS6 Memory Map
PS6 Student, Memory Map
PS6 student Memory Map
Avi, PS6 Memory Map
Roshan, PS6 Memory Map
Pavan, PS6 Memory Map
Mailo, PS6 Memory Map
Dhvani, PS6 Memory Map

In other news from PS6 -- Congratulations to PS 6 Librarian Nadene Bracken our close collaborator at PS 6. Nadene is an enthusiastic and creative partner who always sees connections to literature and books which will deepen and underscore student learning in our projects. We were thrilled to see that she has been awarded Educational Services Professional of the Year!


Yesterday I attended a Brooklyn Arts Council Zoom Celebration for awardees. I really enjoyed some of the performances and learning about other projects receiving funding in the breakout sessions!

Brooklyn Arts Council Award Ceremony on Zoom

Our project description: The Way We See It, will be on view at FiveMyles Gallery in Crown Height, September 18 - October 10, 2021, will feature paintings from Meridith McNeal’s series, Inside Outside Windowphilia, along with artwork by ART YARD students. Meridith’s pieces play with reflection and layers of external and internal space, exploring the precarious and terrifying idea of being on one side or the other of incarceration; we will include several collaborative Windowphilia paintings created by ART YARD artists during the past year. The exhibition will also include newer work from the 2021 Summer Session (and Advanced Studio) focusing on social justice issues, repair and recovery.

The Way We See It, is sponsored, in part, by the Greater New York Arts Development Fund of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, administered by Brooklyn Arts Council.


Vera, Ardelia and I went over to check out Salon on Kingston a community performance and poetry venue in Crown Heights. We are so excited to announce that we will host the third week of ART YARD Summer Session 2021 live in this exciting space for a limited number of participants at safe social distance in the well-ventilated space.

Vera and I stayed for the first set of the evenings performance:

Vera Tineo, Performance Video Still from Salon on Kingston

José Carlos Cruzata Revé saxophone player and occasional Advanced Studio participant is currently on residency at Jacob’s Pillow in the Berkshires. José and his collaborating musicians and dancers are rehearsing and creating new work for a show at the Guggenheim next year.

Here is a short video of José made by one of the tap dancers in the company:


Let the weekend begin!

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