“Street artists aren’t trying to push any sort of message. They’re trying to make their audience think and everyone has their own interpretation,” Nan E.’21 emphasized during her presentation at the ColLAB symposium. Nan was among several students who traveled to New York City to study street art and to learn about today’s artists. There is no better place to immerse oneself in street art culture than the Big Apple. Students were able to visit Coney Island, the Bushwick Collective, Chinatown, Little Italy, SoHo, and Williamsburg all during their stay in New York. They also participated in several street art workshops where they were able to learn about different styles, techniques, and methods of creating street art. Students met Jerkface, Bishop, and Nock. They also were able to meet with Brett Stein, the founder of a company called New York State of Mind, who taught them how to screen print and discussed the process of creating his own company.
Elizabeth Perkins, the ColLAB leader, put much time and energy setting up a rewarding and busy ColLAB for her students. It took her six months to gather all of the artists she wanted her students to explore and to find authentic tour guides. Perkins expressed how she was inspired to create this ColLAB from a class she took in college surrounding nontraditional art and her time abroad in Berlin where street art is an incredible part of the culture.
“I think it’s really cool that street artists make art for the public and you don’t have to be a part of this elite community to interact with the art. It’s a way for everyone to get involved, and I think it’s a great way to use your voice without words. I think it connects more with our pop culture or just what is happening in the world today and is way more relevant than renaissance art.”
The group also watched selected documentaries together and learned about different issues facing the street art community. For example, when studying the Bushwick Collective, students learned about the gentrification of this Brooklyn neighborhood and how street art has become a contributing factor. As more renowned street artists have put their work up in this neighborhood, more people have flocked to the area to see the art which has brought more money, advertisements, and tourism to Brooklyn. One unfortunate side effect of this gentrification on the street art was highlighted by Nan.
“People were putting advertisements over artist’s murals which was sad to see because street artists spend a lot of time on their art.”
Students were encouraged to connect real-world issues such as gentrification to observations they made while in the city. They also began to think about art in a differently. During one workshop, the students were asked to incorporate body movements, and change their body language while they painted. This form of art was something none of the students, nor Ms. Perkins had seen before, but they were all willing to try. Linet C.’20 is just one of the students who benefited from this exposure to new forms and methods of art. She did not have much experience with creating art before this ColLAB and when asked what her biggest takeaway is from her time in New York is, Linet expressed the freedom and empowerment she felt while working on her own art.
“There was this feeling I got when I had the spray can in my hand and I was able to do whatever I wanted with it.”
Upon returning to The Winchendon School campus, the students immediately began working on a mural of their own that incorporated many of the techniques they learned while in New York. This mural will be displayed at the new Brooklyn campus. And when you’re on The Winchendon School campus in Massachusetts, keep your eye out for the mural the group painted here.