Cathedral of St. John the Divine Blog

Local Students and "The Value of Food" MIA MICHELSON-BARTLETT JANUARY 14, 2016

Throughout October, November, and December, students in Morningside Heights were exploring the Cathedral’s special exhibition, The Value of Food: Sustaining A Green Planet, in a variety of exciting ways.

The School at Columbia University included the exhibition in its after school programs, offering a class this fall called Art at the Cathedral: The Value of Food. With students from 3rd to 5th grade enrolled, the class has made multiple visits to the exhibition and is producing artwork that explores themes of health and social justice. One of their first projects of the year was a meal collage, using dried beans, pasta, and other food materials as well as paper and cardboard. In this project, the students were asked what they would serve to someone who was suffering from hunger, and with whom they might share a meal. These collages were installed on the Value of Food Youth Art Walls, located at the southwest end of the Cathedral Ambulatory, for the opening of the exhibition in October. The class will also be showing a culminating exhibition of their work from the fall school term on the Youth Art Walls at the end of January.

Meanwhile, the Cathedral School is folding the exhibition into several aspects of its curriculum. Each grade is responsible for designing an Evensong presentation to teach their schoolmates about a specific issue, and several of the grades from both the lower and upper schools found their inspiration in the The Value of Food. From exploring the nature of urban food deserts with David Burns and Austin Young of Fallen Fruit to using Christy Rupp’s sculptures to prompt thinking about extinction events, these presentations have demonstrated thoughtful insight into some of the themes present in the exhibition.

Additionally, the Cathedral School Kindergarteners recently took a guided tour of the exhibition as part of their unit on how plants grow, using the art to help think about soil, seed, water, and farm in new ways. They looked at work by Claire Pentecost, Eating in Public, Fredericka Foster, and Suzanne Anker. These pieces fostered conversation about how soil and compost are made and how they help plants grow; the fact that seeds come in many different shapes and sizes and why watermelons and apples don’t grow in your stomach when you swallow the seeds; and the important role water plays in helping both plants and kindergarteners grow up big and healthy.

The Cathedral School eighth graders have also contributed work to the Youth Art Walls. Inspired by the still lives of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque featuring musical instruments, the students used metal cutlery to create their own three-dimensional cubist collages. This project is on view until late January.

After school students at Adults and Children in Trust (ACT) are working on a long-term recycling art project this fall. Since the start of the school year, they have been washing and saving applesauce containers, plastic spoons and forks, and other refuse from their afternoon snacks. They are in the process of transforming these materials into art objects, including decorative flowers and planters for seedlings. The flowers will be used to decorate the ACT garden, located near the Morningside Drive entrance to the Cathedral Close; this upcycled winter garden will be viewable from January through March. The planters and other work will be installed as a living exhibition on the Youth Art Walls at the end of January.

With strong connections to important curriculum points, starting at art and extending to health and nutrition, social justice, ecology and earth sciences, and more, The Value of Food: Sustaining a Green Planet is a powerful resource for educators at all levels. The exhibition will be on view until April 3, 2016, and we look forward to continued engagement from our students and teachers in the neighborhood and throughout the city. Teachers interested in learning more about the exhibition or scheduling a visit should contact our Education Department at (212) 932-7347.

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