“This collaboration couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Maritza Arroyo, executive director of Zone 126. “It comes at such a moment of need, when there are so many budget cuts in the arts.”
Dozens of student works were on display in the park for the graduation, and consisted of mostly small-scale sculptures made of a wide variety of textiles, wires and other colorful materials. Each of the art pieces was accompanied by a short narrative explaining what the piece means to the artist.
“I am astounded not only by the creativity of the works, but by the narratives that accompany them,” said John Hatfield, executive director of Socrates Sculpture Park. “We are thrilled to have Zone 126 as a partner and we look forward to having an involvement with the organization and the high school for many years to come.”
LIC High School Assistant Principal Natalia Duncan explained that when Zone 126 and Socrates approached her office to pitch the program it appeared to be extremely ambitious, but the staff of the high school decided to give it a shot.
“It sounded huge,” Duncan said. “But we thought, we would like to try it and at the end, we will look at what the students have done. Now, I hope we continue to expand.”
The Art Studio program was made possible through a donation from Shelley and Donald Rubin, who matched Zone 126’s own funding to create an arts literacy program within LIC High School.
Arroyo explained that with the help of this funding, a collaboration was formed between artists associated with Socrates, logistical support personnel from her organization, and students from the high school.
The end goal of Zone 126 programming is to find ways to bolster graduation rates in schools located within the 11201, 11202 and 11206 area codes, hence the “126” in the organization’s name.
Natiana Espino, who will be a high school senior next year, chose to create a piece about growing up and “the chaos of being a child.”
“I called this piece 'Not One Stitch Alike' because we’re all unique in our own way. Not one stitch is alike, not one pattern,” Espino said. “I’m a really unique person, so I just like being different. And I’ve always loved Alice in Wonderland, so I decided to put that into words in the form of a hat.”
Brianna Arroyo found her inspiration for her project from her love of books.
“I’m always reading and I’m always writing stories, and I truly feel that a book is never finished,” Arroyo said. “My idea was to make an incomplete book opened right in the middle to show that particular world, with different settings to show there’s never truly one world.”
To date, roughly 350 students have been impacted by the program and soon, Arroyo hopes to be serving all of the high school students in the Zone 126 operating area.
“We have to see what works and what doesn’t work, so part of the evaluation is focused on the efficacy of the program. It’s a long-term project,” Arroyo said. “We’re pretty new in terms of how we’re scaling this, but we’re hoping to be fully scaled and serving 10,000 kids by year seven, so that way we have another seven to 10 years of full-scale data to be able to see the change.”