For High School Students, A Free Saturday Workshop Offers A Complex Vision of Art

On a recent Saturday in May, parents, friends, and teachers came together to celebrate student art created at Steinhardt’s Visionary Studio: Saturday Art Workshop. Now in its second year, the9-week program offered by the Department of Art and Arts Professions expands high school students’ understanding of art by incorporating research on social themes with visual expression. High school students use a range of visual media techniques to explore ideas and experience how artists engage with society.

Art education masters students designed and taught the classes which asked the high school students to integrate research on advertising, the urban environment, and identity politics, into their artworks.

Working with NYU graduate student Danielle Durchslag, high school student Jennifer Simon created an installation of the city’s past and future, with buildings represented in black and gray, and a new type of subway, a balloon-train, which hung like a yellow crescent moon in the sky.

“Jennifer is one of the marvelous students we have,” Durchslag said. “We’ve asked them to think about the city’s future and asked them to think about how they want it to be moving forward. As you can see the result is aesthetically beautiful, but it is really also a thoughtful piece.”

55 high school students from New York and New Jersey took part in this year’s free Saturday studio course.

“One of the exciting aspects of this year’s program was the development of critical visual strategies by our master’s students that allowed the high school students to experience art in a different way and in turn pushed them to produce visually powerful art,” said Associate Professor Dipti Desai, who serves as director of Steinhardt’s art education program.

It was NYU Student Keith Sklar’s vision and coaxing that helped turn high school student Alex Berthea idea of a three-headed monster into an elegant multimedia self-portrait of the young artist. Berthea’s heads were streamlined into newspaper hair, which functions as a representation of the issues that Berhea thinks about — “politics, the stock market, and the U.S., in general.”

The team worked to integrate Alex’s drawing into a three-dimensional sculpture, while building dialogue and conversation on identity politics into the piece.

Sklar reflected on his role int the artistic process, which was part sounding board, part art historian, and part working artist.

“What we try to do in this experimental workshop is to to give students as many possibilities as possible,” Sklar said. Then he looked at Berthea’s self-portrait, which seemed almost to catch him by surprise, and said, “I’m really psyched!”

Photo: Jennifer Simon and her teacher Danielle Durschlag inside Jennifer’s artwork called, ‘The Skyline.’

Alex Berthea and his self-portrait.