Making Peace With Gargoyles

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The male and female grotesque-looking gargoyles that were salvageable were sent to Maple Grove Cemetery in Kew Gardens for preserving until they can be included in the new landscape of the cemetery.

In return for the gift, Maple Grove Cemetery wanted to give something back to PS 99, which asked the artist in residence to work with its students. Karen Fitzgerald was hired, spawning the Guardian Gargoyle for Peace Project.

Last Thursday night PS 99, located at 82-37 Kew Gardens Rd., showcased the work of fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students in the Guardian Gargoyle for Peace Project. The students made quilts, masks, self-portraits, a 30-foot-long student mural, relief prints and botanical banners.

The project is a partnership between the Maple Grove Cemetery, PS 99 and the Kew Gardens Council on Recreation and the Arts.

"The project has embodied an approach to learning very different from the traditional textbook curriculum," said Linda Mayo-Perez, chief executive officer of the Maple Grove Cemetery. "It deepens the impact of arts education but also fosters an appreciation of history and social studies among those in the school community."

The evening was kicked off by an assembly for family members during which the sixth-grade students displayed their masks and read a poem about what their creations meant to them. The masks, made of cardboard and plaster, were designed to represent each student's cultural heritage.

"This really is a work of heart," said Roberta Nelson, the Talented and Gifted program coordinator. "You can see by the variety of the projects, [the students] got to be masters of their projects."

Down in the basement, students displayed their work for parents and friends to peruse.

"I learned that people have different ideas about art," said Tonya Nelson, a sixth-grade student. "You can decide art however you want."

It took the children several months to make the masks. "It really got us thinking about our masks and what they symbolize most," said sixth-grader Talia Raney.

With the expertise of Fitzgerald and Nelson, students, parents and community members have been working on a life-size Guardian Gargoyle for Peace sculpture. Upon completion it will be installed in Maple Grove Cemetery, adjacent to their new inspiration center.

"The collaborative relationships are what make high-quality education possible," said Fitzgerald.

Reach reporter Tommy Hallissey by e-mail at, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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