NEW YORK (CBS 2) — It is the largest student exhibition in the history of New York City Parks. Hundreds of middle school students participated in a project that let them speak out on important issues, as CBS 2’s Cindy Hsu reports, not with their voices, but with their art.
Students addressed issues ranging from gang violence to global warming Thursday at Union Square Park.
The Learning through and Expanded Arts Program (LeAp) created the exhibition that had students convert lunch tables into art. Ten New York City middle schools participated.
Eva Pugliese, a seventh-grader from I.S. 61 on Staten Island was part of the project. Her team spoke out against drugs.
“It was a really personal issue because I have friends who take drugs,” she said. “You have to have hope to put your life in the right direction. And that’s what we did with our table.”
Almost 400 students worked on the tables for four months.
The program invited famed artists to speak with the teens. Internationally-renowned guest artist Christo, who created the famous Gates piece in Central Park, was there.
“We should talk to the young people [as] soon as possible, all the time. Because they will survive us,” he said.
“It tears at my heart strings. Kids are part of our communities and experience all the same things we do and for them to be able to have that chance to and speak out and to see what they have to say,” said Alexandra Leff, of LeAp.
Many of the students learned unexpected lessons. Bairon Jimenez from the Maspeth section of Brooklyn initially had no desire to take part in the project.
“I really thought that this was going to turn out a disaster. I started and I was in a really bad mood, I really had problems at home,” he said.
With everything he faced, the last thing he wanted to do was paint with his classmates. He was afraid he’d let down the team.
“We learned to use teamwork. We did go through a lot of fights, arguments. But we got through all of that. We really did an amazing job and I’m really happy. It looks like the best project. The best art project I’ve ever done in my life, so far,” said Jimenez.
The tables will be moved to 10 community parks throughout the city. Each borough will get two tables. The young artists hope families will sit at their tables and learn what local teenagers are concerned about.