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Art Beyond Sight - Laboratory for Learning

The New York Institute For Special Education at the Whitney Museum of Art

Art Beyond Sight and the Whitney Museum of Art collaborated for the third year to bring together teens from the New York Institute for Special Education and teens from the Youth Insight (YI) program. The evening, held when the museum was closed to the general public started cheerfully with everyone getting acquainted to each other and telling jokes to break the ice. “Have you ever been to the Whitney Mu

seum of American Art?” asked Danielle Linzer, the Manager of Access and Community Programs. “Probably, but I don’t remember,” respond Tiasheem nonchalantly, which got some chuckles from his classmates, Maurice, Clay and Khalique. The YI members took this opportunity to introduce the museum to the group, passing around a small reproduction of it so the students could better understand its architecture and size. Everyone then moved into the galleries, where Evelyn, one of the YI teens, was nervously waiting to start her presentation of the” Circus,” by Alexander Calder. Everyone listened attentively; however, the presence of a “toy circus” in a major museum was quite puzzling to some. Evelyn provided a thorough description of the materials used to make the 70 characters and numerous other accessories that comprise the piece; she spoke about their mechanisms and how Calder brought everything to life by adding animations. YI teens had also brought replicas of some of the characters; these had been made by museum staff. We continued to a new artwork, this one by Eva Hesse, “No title,” a bunch of rope hanging from the ceiling looking like a “spider web.” Another enigmatic and ambiguous piece, it perfectly reflected the rest of the works of art the group explored that evening. Izzie, our next tour guide, did a fine job at explaining the artist’s process , and inviting her audience to ponder the meaning of this work and how much of its actual shape depends on the artist’s intention. The Whitney Biennial was our next stop where we looked at two more pieces by contemporary artists, including one by Sam Lewitt that uses ferromagnetic liquid poured bi-weekly over plastics and other magnets, as well as fan, to emphasize the fluid movements. This was another piece that left everyone with more questions than answers. We ended the tour with an even more bizarre work, a handle from a gas pump covered with oatmeal, a stranger assemblage of everyday objects. By that time, YI teens were relieved all went well and others had built up an appetite. We headed to one of the Whitney’s conference rooms where snacks and refreshments awaited. Once settled in, the teens discussed more pressing business: What’s your school like? What do you do outside of school? Go ball?! What are you reading? Hunger Games! … Me, too.

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