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PS 178 shares art with world

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Nearly 400 Holliswood artists have exhibited their work all over the world this year — and some of them are only 6 years old.

From pre-kindergarten to eighth-grade, art students at PS 178 participated in artsonia.com, an online gallery geared toward budding Picassos in elementary and middle school.

“It’s a really great online place, and the kids love it,” said Marisa Guglietta, art teacher at PS 178 at 189-10 Radnor Road in Jamaica. “It makes them feel famous.”

Each week a volunteer parent takes a digital photograph of finished canvasses or sketches and then uploads the images onto the Internet. The picture goes into the students’ personal gallery — with full names omitted for their protection — so friends and family can browse all the latest artwork.

“For the kids it’s a motivator, especially the little ones,” Guglietta said. “Their work comes out better and it’s also something that they can show their families.”

That can be a significant feature, since Guglietta said that many of her students have far-flung family members, like one little girl whose grandmother lives in India.

But not only can her grandmother see every piece of art, she can receive an e-mail message alerting her to new additions to the online gallery. And if a computer screen is too impersonal for grandma, she could also order a T-shirt or a coffee mug with a print of the artwork.

“When the kids tell them about the site, the family is so happy,” she said.

The potentially worldwide audience has also helped the students take themselves seriously as artists, whereas before many kids were too critical to even put a pencil to paper.

“They would say, ‘I’m not a good artist,’ but when they see it up on the site, it really confirms that they’re somebody special,” Guglietta said. “I felt like there was a big gap between creating and showing art — where the kids understand that they are artists.”

Students create fan clubs, which are guaranteed to be populated by mothers and uncles, but also by peers and classmates.

They can leave each other comments below the images on the site. Guglietta asks some of her older students to comment on artwork by the younger kids. Although planned, the critiques carry a street-credibility and authenticity that would be hard for a teacher to replicate.

In Guglietta’s class, each student is required to create five pieces of art and garner five comments and five fan club members.

Aside from all the educational benefits, being a member of Artsonia for six years has brought Guglietta and her school monetary benefits as well.

Membership is free, but the web site constantly hosts contests, and Guglietta recently won $5,000 for the art program at PS 178. She is using it to buy computers to teach digital animation, which is why she recommends the program to other teachers in the borough.

“More teachers should do it,” Guglietta said. “It changes children’s perspective about why art is important.”

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 6:14 pm, October 10, 2011
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