Riverdale Country School – Sharing Art Inspired By Our Home; New York City
Posted: 24 March 2021
- Communication skills
- Appreciation for diversity
- Self awareness
Eight Riverdale Visual Arts students led a discussion entitled “Art Inspired by Our Home” with 130 students from 20 different schools based in the U.S., Brazil, Bangladesh, Korea, Germany, Oman, India, Japan, South Africa, Peru, Canada, and the U.K.
As Riverdale’s RS coordinator and Director of Experiential Education, I brainstormed with Miriam Piña, Director of Global Studies, as well as other faculty to identify a group of students that were doing interesting work and who would enjoy discussing that work with students from around the world. We saw the Postcard as an opportunity to engage students not typically involved with Global Studies in a global conversation. This year, we have a particularly strong group of visual art students in our community. We reached out to thirteen students, recommended by the art department faculty, to see if they would be interested in planning and participating in the event. Seniors Kaitlin Russo (who also leads our Global Studies Club) and Ariana Kourepenos took the lead in organizing the event and planning the agenda, and six other students agreed to help organize and lead break out rooms.
Ariana and Kaitlin welcomed the students and shared short and powerful presentations of their art pieces inspired by New York. Kaitlin’s “Running Through the Market,” made with watercolor, markers, cut-up photographs, and collaged paint samples, contrasted her navigation of the Chelsea market as a small child with her more orderly approach as a teenager. Ariana’s “The Interdependence between The City and its People,” acrylic on canvas, offered two contrasting depictions of the same Chinatown landscape, one in the midst of the COVID-19 epidemic and the other as the city came back to life.
Then six other students joined Ariana and Kaitlin in leading break-out rooms where students from around the world shared their own art, their process, materials, and inspiration. At the end of the “baraza breakouts” students shared what they had learned. The messages were powerful: art allows us insight into other cultures, art is a way to relax during difficult times, art allows for individual expression, and COVID-19 has informed the art of so many students from around the world.
We were organizing this in a fairly short period of time, so while the conception of the event was easy, getting the art together to make our post-card was challenging, and required faculty support. Getting students in the same place to plan was also a challenge. But the biggest challenge was dealing with the large number of photos submitted to RS before the event. Those photos came in between Sunday and Tuesday evening (the event was on Wednesday). Other RS schools should dedicate faculty or student time to dealing with the “data” before the event.
A couple of technical challenges occurred during the event, such as a wrong breakout room. Some students didn’t see the “invite” to their breakout rooms and stayed in the main space feeling “stuck”. All small teething problems that were overcome.
The student planning committee definitely needed reminders from faculty to make sure that they met deadlines, but they took ownership of developing the agenda, reflection questions, etc.
Long Term Outcomes
- Riverdale Visual Artists talked about the experience in their Arts classes and reflected on the global meaning of art in those spaces in new ways.
- As a new RS school, it exposed students not typically involved in global studies to the RS world and built excitement for future engagement for online gatherings and conferences.
- The sharing out about the event to faculty following the event generated excitement for RS, and I am hopeful that this will bring more faculty to want to engage with RS schools.
I really recommend using this experience to tap students who are not the “usual suspects.” other student groups we considered “tapping” : our computer science senior study students, our microfinance club, students who are active in service learning
Author: Elizabeth Pillsbury, History Teacher, Director of Experiential Education, RS Rep