Kids make inflatable sculpture fueled by subway grates in Downtown Brooklyn

August 4, 2012 By Clara Wheatley-Schaller, Special to Brooklyn Eagle Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Passersby may have wondered about the group of kids seen recently tying carefully constructed plastic bags to subway grates in downtown Brooklyn. But, if they stayed still just long enough, they’d see the bags come to life with the passing of the next A train.  

It was all part of the popular Summer Arts Program at Brooklyn Friends School (BFS), which since 2001 has celebrated the creative artists of NYC and original kids’ art by pairing acclaimed artists with inspired young people. Summer Arts students in past years visited the studios of William Wegman, David Byrne, Christo and Jean Claude, Donald Baechler, Tom Otterness, the Starn brothers and Kenny Scharf.  

This summer, artist Joshua Allen Harris, who creates inflatable sculptures on subway grates, met with BFS Summer Arts kids, ages 8-14, showed his work and challenged them to create their own art on subway grates on city sidewalks.

These artistic pairings reap extraordinary benefits, says Rachel Webber, head of the Summer Arts Program, Auxiliary Programs and the Horizons Program.

“Visiting with artists is a very important part of Summer Arts because the students receive a personal introduction to the work, processes and lives of these remarkable artists, often in the artists’ studios,” Webber said. “This summer’s visit with Joshua was especially inspiring because it directly related to their Inflatable Sculptures class, which only amped up their excitement and engagement. The students asked a lot of insightful questions.”  

For example, students wanted to know what inspired Joshua to start making inflatable sculptures, his strategies for making them inflate, and if he liked making art as a child. The students also had the opportunity to show Joshua some of the sculptures they made while testing them on air conditioning vents.  

In addition to making inflatable sculptures, Summer Arts kids traveled the city on field trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum and the Museum of the Moving Image, went swimming twice a week, and explored classes in woodworking, animation, painting, maskmaking and songwriting.  Visit the site for more images and information.

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