Gregory Elementary School Transformed Into Art Gallery
WEST ORANGE, NJ – Gregory Elementary School has been transformed into an Art Gallery, thanks to the efforts of Art Teacher Sarah Traci and the Gregory PTA. Here is our Q and A with the multi-talented teacher, who received a Bachelor's degree from NYU and a Master's Degree in Art Education from Pratt Institute. This is Traci’s second year at Gregory and taught for eight years in Brooklyn and Harlem.
What gave you the idea to run the art show this way? What did the students get out of it?
Our PTA already puts on an amazing art show in the gym every April where the students are invited to bring in a piece of art that they created at home. This year, I worked with the PTA to build on this event, keeping two big goals in mind.
First, I wanted to make the event more inclusive. I wanted every student in the school to have at least one piece of artwork in the show. I wanted every student in our school to understand that their ideas and effort have value and to feel the pride of seeing their work on the wall. It was important to me that our art show featured every Gregory student. To accomplish this, we used the artwork that students had created during art class throughout the year to curate the show. In addition to featuring our students, this also helps families to understand the artistic process of what goes on in our art studio and help to make the learning accessible and visible to all.
My second goal was to make it so that the artwork could stay on the walls for a longer period of time. In the past, the event was held in the gym. Because this is a shared space, the artwork could only stay up for the event. By using all of the bulletin boards throughout the school, we created an "art gallery experience" and ensured that the show could stay up for an extended period of time. This not only beautifies the school and showcases the work students have done, but also makes it so students or families who were not able to attend the show have ample opportunity to experience the artwork.
Did you select specific artists for specific grades?
No. Each student from Gregory had at least one piece featured in the show. The artwork was hung grouped project. All art came from the work students created in the art room throughout the year.
How long did this take to put together and who helped you with it?
This was the PTA's art show. I was honored that they allowed me to jump in and provide artwork to curate the event this year. Gregory Elementary is so lucky to have such an amazing and supportive PTA that provided me with what I needed to make this vision come to life.
Do you have any additional comments about the project?
One additional element to this year's art show was that we did an "unveiling" on the end of the school day on Friday. All the artwork was hung by volunteers on Thursday afternoon and then covered with paper. When students entered the school Friday morning, the show was concealed. At 3pm on Friday, all students were invited into the hallways. Our music teacher did a drumroll and our principal announced the beginning of the art show. At this point, students tore away the paper and unveiled the show. They were given time to "tour the gallery" with their class and find their artwork. This was a really fun way to get students engaged and build enthusiasm for the event that evening.
The art show theme is “The Stories of Us.” Frida Kahlo famously said "I draw myself because it is the subject I know best." With this in mind, the Gregory art studio recognizes young children as natural artists, bursting with intrepid curiosities, wild imaginations, and compelling stories to tell. Through creative exploration, our young artists became careful observers, thoughtful communicators, and learned to navigate the visual world. Students also spent time with contemporary and traditional art history concepts, which provide them with a baseline for critical thinking, points of connection and an understanding that their stories are part of a global narrative.
Traci lives in the Gregory section of West Orange with her husband and two young children. She grew up outside of Philadelphia and lived in New York for 16 years before moving to the Township.
May 17, 2018