P.S. 121’s artwork influenced by artist Thiebaud

Thiebaud holding a picture of the bulletin board and P.S. 121’s two art teachers, Giovanna (l) and Tsapatsaris.
Photo courtesy of P.S. 121 The Throop School

Hard work pays off – and apparently, so does artwork!

For the past month, about 700 students at P.S. 121, The Throop School, participated in an art workshop that was highlighted on the school’s general bulletin board.

It featured the students creations based on the works of famous painter Wayne Thiebaud.

The workshop involved students from grades K-5 who where learning about Thiebaud and how he used everyday objects, such as cupcakes, hot dogs, gumball machines and lipstick, in his pop artwork.

After learning the nuances of Thiebaud’s art style and techniques, students attempted to recreate his artwork through their own eyes.

Many of the artworks simulated Thiebaud’s style.

About 50 drawings and other artwork were added to the bulletin board which was titled ‘Learning Today For A Better Tomorrow’ at the top.

After completing the bulletin display, the school reached out to Thiebaud, writing him a letter and sending him pictures of the final project.

Not only did Thiebaud respond – he sent them a personally handwritten letter, thanking them for acknowledging his art and encouraging them to keep creating, either by drawing or painting.

Thiebaud also sent the school a picture of him holding up the photo that was sent to him, which depicted the bulletin board and the school’s two art teachers, Elaine Chiamulera and Giovanna Tsapatsaris.

“We study various artists at this school – but many of them, such as Picasso and Van Gogh, aren’t alive to share their stories and experiences with art, so it was great to connect the students with an iconic art figure who they can learn a lot from,” said Chiamulera. “The students were amazed when they found out that he wrote back – and we are all incredibly humbled that he acknowledged us.”

“The fact that he (Thiebaud) wrote a letter thanking us made it real for the students – and therefore, that much more thrilling for them,” said Giovanna Tsapatsaris. “The biggest lesson that the students learned during this whole process was that art can be a part of everyday life, and can also lead to career paths. It also taught them to work together while solving problems at the same time.”

“This activity was fun – and it was so worth it when we received the letter back from him,” said third grader Kelvin Shehu. “It was very exciting – and the experience taught us that art can come in any form, as long as the person puts their heart into it.”

“Art is my favorite class,” said Enrique Gans, also in the third grade. “It’s amazing that a famous artist wrote us back and noticed the work that we accomplished.”

Thiebaud, who is now 96-years-old and lives in California, was a prominent figure in the pop art movement in the 1950s and ‘60s, along with Jasper Johns, Larry Rivers and Robert Rauschenberg and other artists.

He won the National Medal of Arts award, a prestigious honor which recognizes artists and patrons of the arts, in 1994.

The Thiebaud-influenced school bulletin board, located in the first floor lobby, will only be on display until the end of the school year, and the general public is greatly encouraged to visit the school and view the artwork created by the students before it is removed.

Enrique Gans (l) and Kelvin Shehu pose with Thiebaud’s book from the Acquavella Gallery.
Photo courtesy of P.S. 121 The Throop School
Photo courtesy of P.S. 121 The Throop School
Photo courtesy of P.S. 121 The Throop School

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