Filling the Art Void in New York Public Schools and Communities

Image of Art Classroom in New York Public Schools and Communities

Studies show that art classes help students succeed academically, but when budgets are tight, they are often the first courses to go. This is where the Lehman College Art Gallery steps in, now providing supplemental instruction for area schools through its K-12 Art Education Program, in addition to existing community art programs.

The Gallery’s workshops are available to all New York City public schools and are designed to foster an interest in contemporary arts. Participants take classes in public-art making; learn to work with ceramics, tiles, and textiles; and take tours of the Gallery exhibits. Teachers, in turn, learn how to integrate art into their curriculum. 

Joseph Solana, a ninth-grade algebra teacher at Roosevelt Early College High School, has been bringing students to the Art Gallery's workshops for the past six years. He has witnessed the benefits students reap from the experience in his classroom. “I’ve always linked art and math together,” said Solana. “Once during a lesson, I had students tell their classmates about proportions, a concept they had been taught in the workshops while making self-portraits.”

Hannah Brenner-Leonard, who runs the K-12 Art Education program at the Gallery, believes that the classes fill an art-void which exists in many schools. “The limited materials, space, and amount of time that teachers have can all present barriers to the subject being taught in schools,” said Brenner-Leonard. “The English Language Learners and special needs students really benefit from the residency workshops at the Gallery; it is their chance to shine.”

“They’re such a wonderful group,” said Brenner-Leonard of the students from her previous workshop, as she proudly shows their block-prints. Soft rubber slabs were carved out in each of the students’ likeness, coated in vivid paint, and stamped onto paper. They were so eager to create that Brenner-Leonard let them flip the slab over and carve another scene into the back. One student accidentally carved her self-portrait in half. Brenner-Leonard smiled as she held it up and said, “We’ll glue it; it will be fine.”

In addition to the K-12 programs, the Gallery offers many programs that are free for students and their families. One such opportunity is the Family Focus Program, where participants are invited to complete craft projects together, including hand-painted paper collages and multimedia flower bouquets. The Gallery also has complimentary services for Lehman College students including tours for classes, open houses, and special events.

Visitors to the Gallery can now see the exhibits “The Art of War” and “Alien Nations.” Commemorating the centennial anniversary of World War I, “The Art of War”features original propaganda posters from both WWI and WWII. “Alien Nations” features various artists exploring how societal instability affects people’s psychological states and feelings of isolation and anxiety.

For more information on the exhibits and events at the Lehman College Art Gallery, visit