For the past several years, the Tuckahoe School District has been working to revolutionize the art curriculum at its K-through-eighth-grade school on Magee Street.After finding a great deal of success last year—with the introduction of a new advanced art program that will offer high school credit, and with art teacher extraordinaire Barbara Imperiale taking top honors as the Suffolk County Art Teacher of the Year—the district is looking to expand its new art lessons to the community.
With that in mind, it will screen a series of short documentaries about 21st-century artists for the public.
The films are being provided to the district by Art21, a nonprofit contemporary art organization founded in 1997 to inspire art through the words of living artists. This week, Ms. Imperiale said she is excited about the film series and has selected more than 50 artists to be highlighted in 2014.
“I see this as a real way to share something with the community,” Ms. Imperiale said. “Art is this wonderful thing where you can go back and forth and talk about things that you might not have ever talked about before, and you can do that through looking at an artist’s work.”
The films were produced by Art21 as part of a year-long 100 Artists celebration, which highlights the artists featured in the “Art in the Twenty-First Century” documentary series that has aired on PBS since 2001, according to a press release from the agency.
Ms. Imperiale first learned about the series in November while attending a New York State Art Teachers Association conference. She was instantly interested in bringing the films to Tuckahoe, which will be the only school in Suffolk County airing the documentaries.
Some of the artists featured in the series—but not necessarily being shown at Tuckahoe—are Ai Weiwei, Laurie Anderson, John Baldessari, Matthew Barney, Ann Hamilton and Mike Kelley.
“It has been an enormous privilege and amazing journey to work with all of the artists featured to date in the series,” said Susan Sollins, executive director of Art21 and executive producer of the series, in a press packet. “As role models for creative thinking, these artists reveal alternative ways to consider and publicly address the important issues of our time, from technological innovation to environmental sustainability to globalization.”
Next week, the Tuckahoe Board of Education is expected to vote in favor of allowing the films to be viewed in the school, and Ms. Imperiale is hoping the first screening will be held sometime in February. The district hopes to show one film a month during the winter and possibly as often as every other week during the summer.
According to Ms. Imperiale, the films range from 90 to 120 minutes in length. While most of the documentaries will be family oriented, some will be geared toward adults.
She said she hopes the program will open Tuckahoe up to the vibrant East End arts community and also make the district more accessible to summer residents.
“We have a whole set of community members who are not here in the winter,” she said. “So it will be really nice to have these people come into the school and share our love of art.”
Ms. Imperiale also said she believes the film series will be beneficial to Tuckahoe students. Her goal is to screen some films during class time to open a dialogue with students about what can be achieved through art. She said many of her students have a passion for art and that it is important for them to see what the field can do for them in the future.
“I think exposing them to the career of art, to the idea that artists can function as professionals, is important,” she said. “They have the opportunity of making their voices heard. It is important to see that through art they can have their voices heard through whatever social, economical or personal voice they want to be heard.”
Although the screenings will be free, Ms. Imperiale said it is possible that the student council will be able to sell Tuckahoe t-shirts or merchandise to spread the Tuckahoe name further into the art community.
This week Tuckahoe Superintendent Chris Dyer said he does not anticipate any problems with the film series being approved by the Board of Education, noting that it expands the art curriculum for students while reaching out to the community at the same time.
“I am excited about the program because it brings in the most current perspectives that are going on within the art community—new artists, new mediums, new areas—for our kids to learn about art,” Mr. Dyer said. “It expands our curriculum in a way that is enriching, and it provides more opportunities for our kids to see a variety of art events.”