Queens students team up with the Guggenheim

PS 88 fifth-grader Ryan Rodriguez explains his painting to visitors at the Guggenheim Museum during the opening reception. Photo courtesy Scott Rudd
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Artists who have work on display at the Guggenheim Museum have recently gotten younger — some have not even reached their eighth birthdays.

As part of the Learning Through Art program, professional teaching artists are placed in city elementary schools and work with students on developing and executing a year-long project. The final pieces are now on display in the museum’s third-floor gallery and include works created by students from PS 88 in Ridgewood, PS 144 in Forest Hills and PS 317 in Rockaway Park. Earlier this month, students served as docents during the opening of the exhibition, which runs through June 18.

Hours before the guests arrived for the opening reception, the children were gathered for a bit of encouragement.

During a high energy clapping game Jen Oleniczak, a Sackler Educator at the Guggenheim said, “Keep looking in each other’s eyes, just like you’re going to look in people’s eyes tonight,”

During the 20-week program, students in grades 2 through 6 participated in various activities and made trips to the Upper East Side museum.

For their project, fifth-grade students from PS 88 had been contemplating “How do my actions affect what I want to be”?

To explore the question, students worked in groups to discuss their dreams and what they would have to do to achieve their goals. Students sketched themselves and mapped out things they would have to accomplish in order to live their dream. For their final assignment, students created portraits visualizing themselves now, as well as their future selves. Ryan Rodriguez, from PS 88, stood beside his artwork, a multi-colored painting of which he explained how it represented his dream of becoming an architect.

“Each color has meaning,” he said. “Yellow is how happy I’ll be when I reach my goal.”

He also shared that it took him two weeks to get all of the colors right.

He then pointed out the work of one of his friends, Gemma, and her painting of a ballerina, saying that she wants to become a professional dancer.

For Ryan and the other student-artists, learning that things don’t have to be perfect proved to be the most important lesson they learned.

In the museum’s gallery, a placard on the wall read, “The location of Rockaway Beach — home to students of PS 317 –— outside the city provides a unique landscape for artistic exploration.”

Working in small groups, PS 317 second-graders collected items from the beach next to their school and created mixed media collages with these items.

The collages represented their personal and collective landscapes. Their work also included drawings from observed and imagined images.

Third-graders at PS 144 explored the idea of energy by building full body sculptures relying on their knowledge of light, heat, sound and kinetics.

For further information on the exhibit, visit

Posted 12:00 am, June 4, 2014
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