Art Bridges, Identity, & Adolescence

As part of our collaboration with Art Bridges, HRM Museum Educator Bridget McCormick, HRM Kress Interpretive Fellow Christian Stegall, and Yonkers-based spoken word artist Marcus John developed and facilitated a series of gallery experiences and workshops based on the four loaned paintings in Art and Identity by David Clyde Driskell, Kerry James Marshall, and Barkley L. Hendricks. This special program series, Art Bridges & Adolescence, was geared to local middle and high school students and was hugely successful, epitomizing how the partnership with Art Bridges can elevate HRM education programs.

High school students in these workshops translated the discussions, reactions, and connections they made with both the subjects and artists of the paintings into spoken word “I am” portraits, which they then performed for classmates. In one case, Marcia Lyttle’s students in the Black Culture Club from Lincoln High School recited their pieces at a powerful schoolwide assembly celebrating their status as “YPS School of the Month” in March. Middle school students engaged in self-portraiture workshops using graphite, charcoal, and pastels; for all students the process of truly observing oneself in a mirror and rendering themselves by hand was revelatory in the age of iPhone selfies.

In addition, a parallel program series for elementary and middle school Yonkers Public School students (primarily 4th grade), resulted in a unique opportunity for many of our fantastic HRM Docents. The Docents shared their expertise in portraiture and our permanent collection, complementing the students’ experiences in the galleries. Simultaneously, the presence of the works of art on loan from Art Bridges allowed the Docents to add to their knowledge base and stretch their interpretive and constructivist approach to gallery tours. In short, these works allowed everyone involved to grow and to reflect on identity in new ways.

One of the central tasks undertaken during the adolescent years is the development of identity and self—often through experimentation and, increasingly, through the influence of media and peer groups in larger social contexts. Providing a safe place for students to engage in questions about their own identity, for them to reflect on their own experiences, and subsequently to support their navigation of the larger world is a priority for HRM’s Education Department.

We are so grateful to Art Bridges for making this effort possible, and to Yonkers Public Schools for their ongoing relationship with our organization. We’re proud to support these talented, thoughtful students.