For 50 years the Guggenheim’s Learning Through Art program has been offering hands-on, in-school arts education to public school students across the five boroughs.
Celebrating this anniversary, the museum is holding its annual exhibition A Year with Children 2021 from April 30 through June 21. Among the students whose work is on display are children from PS 86 in Kingsbridge Heights. The Guggenheim has been working with the school since 1997.
LTA had three residencies at P.S. 86 this year, third, fourth and sixth grade.
Jeff Hopkins, who has been an artist in residence for 15 years at P.S. 86, spoke with the Bronx Times about the program and how the kids managed during the pandemic.
“It was a very different year, but in some ways we were able to create the same things we do in the classroom,” Hopkins explained.
Hopkins typically teaches a few classes a week at the school, however, when the coronavirus arrived everyone was forced to learn remotely. He was a bit nervous at first because the kids were dealing with the stress of COVID-19 and many lacked art supplies.
Once the children acclimated to their surroundings, class became fun, he said.
“I was really impressed with all of the students handled all of the challenges,” he stressed. “I feel like I got to know the students really well through Zoom. We ended up with some really amazing artwork.”
Each grade had a different project. Third grade did emotional architecture, where students focused on social–emotional learning and in particular how to bring life and personality to inanimate objects.
Fourth grade did pieces about windows, which was inspired by the digital windows of Zoom and Google Classroom. Students designed a window of a large apartment building, complete with characters and depictions of interiors.
Lastly, the sixth grade studied portraits of famous artists and then made their own.
After having a digital exhibition last year, Hopkins was glad this year’s art got to be on display in the museum.
“I had high expectations because I knew we could do good work,” Hopkins explained. “The purpose is to showcase the beautiful artwork that happens in the schools. It’s not about the talent; it’s about tapping into the student’s imagination and abilities they didn’t know they had.
If they don’t think they are an artist and don’t think they can draw, it’s my job to open that up for them.”